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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

[Mass Effect 3] Oh, Dear Yahtzee

I've been somewhat amazed at some of the aggressive response against the Mass Effect community's desire to see a different ending for the epic franchise.

Then I read this ... and yes I know I'm like a month late to the party, but I've been travelling.

"But I doubt the fanbase of Mass Effect were dismayed because they wanted an appropriate ending to the story. Rather, they wanted some kind of appropriate closure for the many-storied and I would argue unnecessarily lengthy process up to this point. Perhaps some epilogue where we get to see what all the characters we met along the way got up to after the events of the series, which I imagine would be easier if they hadn't pretty much all been killed off. I've been given to understand that Bioware are talking about changing the ending under the massive pressure from the idiot fanbase, and I hope like hell they're just talking about doing something like that, an epilogue appendix style thing just to square away the subplots.

Because it would set a horrible precedent if they're serious about actually changing the ending in line with some kind of democratically agreed upon alternative, rather than merely expanding or adding to it."
-- Mass Effect 3 Gets An Ending

At this point, I should probably warn that this post will have some swearing.

Yahtzee ... you can bite me. To try and mount an argument by reducing a very large group of people with a shared and reasonable opinion about what might possible be the most disappointing ending to what could have been a crown jewel of gaming writing as the "the idiot fanbase" absolute devalues anything you might have had to say in a two page article. That you end the article also referring them as "cockheads" who "are just going to have to accept that there are people who know better than them" and by association I'll just have to assume, you mean yourself ... you've clearly devolved from a somewhat unique entertainer to your typical Internet troll with an atypical megaphone by which to broadcast your trolling.

The fanbase of Mass Effect, or at least a large contigency of it, is dismayed not because they wanted one specific thing or another, or that they would have preferred character X had story ending Y, or that they wanted an epilogue which neatly ties everything together, or that they're a bunch of entitled whiners or pretty any of the other theories that I've heard assembled out of thin air and then wailed against the objecting fans.

Since you don't have (according to you) have a cock for head, it shouldn't really be that hard to grasp. But since it seems to be, and it seems to be beyond a lot of games journalists to be bothered to actually try and read through the Bioware forums to ascertain what the gamers are actually complaining about - let me put it into troll terms for you.

Gamers are upset about the Mass Effect 3 ending because the Mass Effect 3 ending was pure bullshit.

100% low quality pure bullshit. It stinks of being written, produced and delivered under concerns related to budget and timelines and showing absolutely no evidence of having any concern for the actual integrity to writing that the rest of the series has been known.

That any gamer is fine with the ending is less of an indication of the possible merit of the ending, or even a any insight into the mind of said gamer, and more of a reflection on the otherwise low quality of gaming writing in general.

That there are now reams of prose being spouted out about how changing the ending in a way that might actually reflect the quality of the rest of the series is a "dangerous precedent" set by "gamers which have no rights to request it of game publishers" is absolutely nothing shy of simple fearmongering and absolutely unqualified and unjustified devotion to the game publishers. You suggest that if Bioware were to go back and rewrite the ending that it would effectively have no ending.

Are you fucking kidding me? Did you actually write that and publish it?

If Bioware changes the ending, according to your non-cock ridden head it will effectively have no ending because the "sanctity of the creator's original intention is made meaningless".

Are you that full of yourself? You're willing to snap logic in half to make the point?

Again, let me put that in terms that a troll will understand.

Let's say you are at a play. And the play is going pretty well. Good lighting, good acting, good writing.

Then in the last ten minutes, the grand finale of the play is one of the actors taking a dump in your lap.

No! No! Says Yahtzee! You don't understand ... despite how utterly shitty this situation is, I am fine with it. For I must preserve the sanctity of the creator's original intention. I AM YAHTZEE.

Well, good for you sir. And how dare anyone else have an opinion that might differ. Surely that an ending might be so bad that it could result in nothing less than a full on player revolt, players who are willing to spend not just energy and time into expressing their opinion ... but money as well. And the movement has been a surprisingly positive one for the most part, despite being attacked by most of the mainstream (if there is such a thing) gaming press and non-cock crowned individuals like yourself.

There are two things that would occur if Bioware changed the ending to any degree, including a complete and utter rewrite (which is what I believe it deserves).

  1. A new ending would be available to players who download the DLC.
  2. For players who don't download the DLC, nothing would change.

And that's it.

That's fucking it.

Game writing isn't going to take a blow or be horribly disfigured. For one thing, that's kind of like saying that the chopped up corpse in the freezer might be inflicted with some frostbite. By pretending that game writing has achieved some kind of high art which must be defended by the idiot rabble at all costs, you've only proven that you are completely blind to the fact that most games still have pretty awful writing.

Mass Effect was supposed to be the game that bucked that trend.

Mass Effect was supposed to be better.

Hell, 99% of Mass Effect was better.

But what we got was a nonsensical ending with a color shift cutscene which looks potentially cobbled from footage left unused from other portions of the game. If that was Bioware's precious "original intention", it doesn't deserve to be defended. It deserves to be shot in the woods and left for dead.

People have made a lot of assumptions about gamers being unhappy because the ending is too bleak. You suggest that it is because they wanted multiple endings - which is kind of odd since one of the most common complaints is that the multiple endings are lifted directly out of Deus Ex, only handled far more miserably from a narrative point of view and displayed with some very shoddy cutscenes.

Personally, I would have been fine with a singular ending where the entire Earth exploded, taking with it the Reapers and even the crew of the Normandy - but the final cutscenes are of the other races taking back their homeworlds.

And if you don't think that's more suitable than the current ending to the themes presented in the game ... then I'm not sure you've really been paying attention. But that's not the point.

You, and many other professional game writers, pundits and cartoonists seem to think the point is this:
Fans of Mass Effect do not deserve nor should they have any avenue to rewrite the ending of Mass Effect 3.

The thing is - like most trolls, you fail to realize that nobody is actually arguing that point. It was never even up for debate. The point is this:

Fans of Mass Effect 3 deserve Bioware to go back and rewrite the ending of Mass Effect 3.

Because any cockhead can see that they did poorly, on the cheap and by ripping off a game published twelve years ago. That some gamers are fine with that ending is, again, not any kind of poor reflection on them. It's just proof of the awful low bar we have set for writing games, the very bar you have now so passionately defended. If you and I went to the same play, apparently you will defend the original vision whereas I will simply state it was fine for a few acts before it turned literally to shit.

Anyway, I just wanted to write and say that it had been a few years since I've seen an episode of Zero Punctuation and having read your opinion on Mass Effect fans, I'm rather glad for it.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Most of the Next Gen Console Rumors Are Probably Wrong

It's that time of the year again.  Or more specifically, that time of the gaming console cycle when it seems credible enough that the next generation of devices might be in some kind of hardware prototype form that it seems perfectly reasonable to float around rumors about how they'll play (pun intended) out.

Which also means it is time to go visit some old friends.  Take a quick glance back at the news reporting about the PlayStation 3 before it debuted.  We're going to see some similar themes: leaps to conclusion about disc storage and of course, the old ghost about playing used games.  Let's not even worry about these from a Microsoft or Sony or Nintendo stance, just as pure speculation.

No more used games!

We'll start with the real money-maker.  And when I say money-maker, I mean this is essentially the online equivalent of trolling for a news source.  There's no doubt that the concept of having a game console block used games will drive page views and comments - gamers love their used games.  The $40-60 price range of most new titles is painful enough to have many gamers think twice before purchasing and the so called "grey market" that keeps GameStop in business is a handy way to purchase for many gamers.

This was widely reported as pretty much factual for the PS3 before it arrived, with some news outlets even suggesting the PS3 would physically notch your disc to make your game its bitch.  But it just doesn't add up.

Problem is: The used games market hits publishers in the money belt, not console makers.

Probably the biggest problem with this meme is that it supposes that the big three have a huge financial stake in it.  However the real profit loss for the console makers is subsidizing the console hardware, not in licensing software.  While they would surely like to see the "white market" sales go up, even Microsoft managed to turn the 360 into a huge profit machine this generation.  Publishers and studios are the ones who potentially go into the red when they spend money on game development, not the hardware makers.

Worse, such a move could potentially hurt console makers where they are actually vulnerable - selling actual consoles.  Analyst Michael Pachter has guess that blocking the sale of used games would probably lead to a bricks and mortar lead, gamer followed revolt.  I think he's completely right (and I don't always think that about Pachter).

Finally, I still say that the technology isn't quite as solid to pull this off as some other people do.  If you accept that gamers will still have an offline, disc-based experience ... there's no real way to pull this off.

Course, that brings us to...

No more disc-based games!

This one has an awful lot of credence behind it, considering the number of people who are now used to buying games - be it for the PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, PS3, 360 or other abbreviation, via the Internet.  Steam, app stores, and console networks are big business these days and with some games only available via electronic means (think Minecraft), surely it makes sense that the next generation consoles would follow suit, right?

Problem is: many, if not most, living rooms are still not on the information highway

While wi-fi is largely domesticated and the concept of "high speed bandwidth" is becoming rapidly redundant - there's still a very healthy percentage of gamers who play 100% offline.  And we're not talking about the casual or senior citizen crowd here - we're talking normal if not hardcore gamers.  While  a decent percentages of gamers in 2011 use their console for online activities, it is by far not the majority.  I know it is anecdotal - but I'm constantly getting into conversations about gaming which quickly get confused because I assume they are playing the most recent patch (see Skyrim).

For more evidence check out the OnLive Console.  Did you even know there was such a thing?  While OnLive has exceeded my expectations for what can be done with streaming games - their hardware sales haven't exactly pegged them as "the fourth console maker" yet.  The truth is that the living room is still new frontier for certainly having high-speed access and many consumers don't yet associate their console as an online device.

But if we must have discs, then...

This XYZ console will use XYZ format!

Will Sony keep Blu-Ray?  Will Microsoft adopt Blu-Ray?  Will Nintendo use flash cards?

The problem with this speculation is that it is probably one of the last decisions the console makers need to make.  While architectural decisions about memory, bus speeds, processors, GPU, and other tightly integrated board components have direct impact on how games are actually coded - storage format fairly uniformly decides two things: capacity and load times.  It makes a big impact, for sure, but certainly not as much as how much system memory can be dedicated to textures or the like.

My guesses are: Sony will keep Blu-Ray, as keeping the Orbis a Blu-Ray player fits in their living room strategy and is cost-effective for them.  Plus, Blu-Ray is probably still the best option technically for games thanks to the large capacity on the discs.  Nintendo and Microsoft will probably use some kind of mutated version of HD-DVD because they can own the experience outright without licensing anything to Sony and still rival the size of Blu-Ray.  They might miss out on being a DVD player (but also might not) - but I'm not sure being a DVD player will be a serious game player in the next generation outright.

The problem with the flash card rumor is cost.  Flash cards offer a lot of versatility to developers (and probably the best option if anyone really did want to kill the grey market of used games) but are really only viable for mobile games where the footprint is small enough to keep costs down.  Look at this way - solid state drives have gotten to a point where they are essentially superior to traditional drives, but expect the makers to opt for the latter so that they can sell a "300GB" model instead of a "150GB" one for less price.

Bottom line: the speculation here is fun, but it is way too early to guess right now.

So for those scoring at home - for the top rumors about the next gen of consoles it is: no way in hell, almost certainly not, and way too early to even care.