Mar 162012

We should have known the conclusion would be trouble. Ending a game like Mass Effect 3 poses a special set of problems, because a central attraction of Western RPGs is that their systems respond to player choice. Mass Effect and its like are the classic case of games that generate stories through collaboration between designer and player. Drawing things to a close, however, requires the hand of the developer to show, often in ways that seem unattractive. This famously happened in the case of Fallout 3, which had an ending so widely disliked that the developers ultimately retconned it with [Read more…]

Day One

 Critique, Role Playing Games  Comments Off on Day One
Mar 122012

Among core gamers, EA and Bioware’s decision to deliver an additional squadmate as day one DLC for Mass Effect 3 continues to rile people who haven’t yet finished the game and gotten angry about the ending. Fast-flying accusations and defenses about whether the content was stripped out of the game mostly miss the point. Craig Bamford gets it right: nobody, not even BioWare, is really denying that this content was stripped out of the game. The argument at this point is just about whether that happened in the planning stages or just prior to certification. I think all of this [Read more…]

Extending the Mass Effect universe

 Fluff  Comments Off on Extending the Mass Effect universe
Mar 052012

Tomorrow, with the release of Mass Effect 3, the epic sci-fi trilogy will conclude as Shepard finally confronts the evil Reapers who are out to destroy all life in the galaxy for reasons that are still unknown. Although I don’t know whether there has been any TV presence, EA has mounted a decent push behind the game, with some mobile tie-ins that are mediated to the main game’s fiction by the Galactic Readiness mechanic. This is also integrated with the game’s packed-in co-op third-person shooter. Tying that kind of functionality to an RPG suggests that EA wants to expand the [Read more…]

Sep 082011
The crying game

At ihobo yesterday, Chris Bateman renewed his argument that game mechanics don’t (or can’t) make you cry. As he puts it in his original post on this subject from 2008: This is the nub of the issue here: a story can make you cry by empathising with the protagonist (or another character), but a game (when viewed as a formal system) cannot do this. It follows that the only way that a videogame can make you cry is by using narrative tools that have nothing to do with games as formal systems whatsoever. Although I think there’s something to this, [Read more…]