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AHoodedFigure's blog

4:07 AM on 03.18.2010

Give Me 100% AND Give Me Death

"Gilgamesh, what you seek you will never find. For when the Gods created Man they let death be his lot, eternal life they withheld"

I have to admit that I like collection games. I like sidequests, too. But often there's a tension in the narrative that makes these sorts of activities a bit absurd.

My best personal example was when I remember Cloud of Final Fantasy VII traversing the main map with a huge, fiery comet looming overhead. All tension broke for me when I realized that yes, this comet would NEVER fall until I decided it would.

Yet I wasn't willing to play the whole game over again just to go pick up every little thing, so I let it hang there. The tension now was between my desire to let the logic of the world and story, which seemed palatable before, continue, and the tension of the game, which suggested a lot of content created by hard-working designers lay undiscovered.

That old saw about games giving us choices was asking me to choose between the story it had been building, and the loot and secrets it had been taunting me with, as though they were mutually exclusive.

In a recent conversation with an internet friend I figured there might be a way around it, but it would take a bit of a leap in terms of what we expect a game to give us.

What I'm suggesting is that the ending is the ending of the character. Imagine that the comet, for example, could not be stopped. Or that that giving up and going home meant death; that what you're doing with all these little quests is keeping yourself alive a little longer. Trying to collect that last thing, helping out yet another person, was a way to prolong the inevitable. That way the tension is a lot more familiar: it's what old Gilgamesh fought against, it's what most of us want to avoid for as long as it seems sensible. The ending for us as individuals is a sad one, whether or not you believe in an afterlife.

This goes against the desire for a perfect ending that too many high profile games think is necessary for a multi-ending experience, but I think it automatically gains narrative weight in a way that stereotypical fairytale endings are incapable of doing.

In other words, it's time, finally, to revisit the central themes of the story of Gilgamesh, the ultimate collection of side quests. Whatever the distraction is, whether it's collection or busy work, as long as it's worthwhile, we'll want to do it anyway. Just let the ending be our stamp on it, the culmination of our choices, but it's also necessarily us resigning to the fate that was given us from the outset. You could even say that if you take so long to perfect everything, you may get credit for perfection, but in all that time you wind up leaving other things and people behind in your quest for the last item. How powerful that could potentially be!

Game music loops. Typing this right now I'm listening to the original soundtrack for Final Fantasy VII, one of my faves, and if the track didn't fade into silence, it could effectively loop forever. It's because games have the potential to be patient, willing to wait for us to grow tired of an area and push on. Why not capitalize on that, rather than create absurd tension, pretending the comet of the story and the sidequest of the gameplay have to be at odds?

It's all about the journey.   read

10:51 AM on 02.06.2010

Mass Effect 2 without Garrus or Wrex?

Spoilers for ME1 more than 2, but still spoilers for both

Appreciated the response I got for my Mass Effect Challenge, was more than the nil that I was expecting for being new. As an addition to my Challenge, I'm wondering if anyone, anyone at all, anyone in the history of mankind, has actually finished Mass Effect 1 without recruiting Wrex or Garrus, and am curious if this carries over at all into 2.

I've heard some weirdo talk about canon (which in a game you're supposed to have some customization on sounds a bit insane), saying that it just ignores your choice in that case. But unlike a death that you have to load from to complete, recruiting them is something that apparently you didn't need to do to survive-- that they'll just ignore because it was too much of a pain programming for a choice that wasn't very popular (although from a resources perspective it made sense... except they shouldn't have given you the choice in the first place), is a bit of a disappointment if that's true.

Then again, I've heard rumors that Shepard biting it in ME2 won't necessarily carry over to 3, so this isn't the only such event, should the rumors be true. I've heard that they'll just tell you to make a new character, but pretend that the actual death never happened. Unconfirmed rumor, but weird if true given that you can actually sorta end end it that way.

I guess I find these issues fascinating because they're really pushing the permutations on this one and I want to know how far it'll go. Should I ever land a copy, I'm pretty much guaranteed to ignore Charm/Intimidate, and try to recruit as few people as possible, just to see what happens.

So, anyone actually have a save without Garrus or Wrex on the team? You try it in ME2? Everyone I've talked to so far either found the idea of not hiring them repulsive, or didn't even realize it was possible. If this list is true, though, it's one of the many things that the game seems to keep track of.

I'm trying to piece this together from memory, but I wonder if the Garrus mission in ME2 would still exist, or if it'd skip over it entirely. I can't imagine them skipping that much content, that seems a bit crazy, but at the same time if they don't, the dialogue will have to be cleverly changed. Wrex absence is potentially much easier, although I think there is a reference to the default Wrex result that might have to be taken out.

I'm pretty sure everyone would have their theories about what might happen, and feel free to present those below if you like, but I'm more wondering if you, or someone you know, managed to finish ME1 without one of those charmers, and if they've applied that save to ME2.   read

10:09 AM on 02.04.2010

AHoodedFigure's Mass Effect Challenge

Going to start with something I've suggested elsewhere.

The latest Rev Rant reminded me of how pervasive Charm and Intimidate are in both games. I posted on my main blog about a challenge I was suggesting to everyone who wanted to play through again, to see what kind of experience they would have if they never chose the Charm or Intimidate option, no matter how much utility it would have.

Frankly I think asking someone to do this could easily be considered sadistic, because it takes so long to complete both games, and the game seems partly geared toward expecting players to Charm or Intimidate. But I think that if you're stuck with picking things that don't use Jedi mind tricks on people, it could actually push toward conversation sim a bit more; without the magical fix-it buttons, you're forced to do those ugly decisions, or at least make passive aggressive comments about them.

I've done a little research since I posted on my main blog, and I've found that some of the key moments that people cite as a reason why they wouldn't want to be locked out of Charm and Intimidate choices (read: Wrex) are actually NOT driven by Charm/Intimidate options, anyway. If I'm wrong please point out why so that I don't unravel the universe.

I can think of other seemingly important choices that bypass the mind control stuff too, but I'd rather not have to plaster my first blog with spoiler warnings. Can't guarantee that for any comments I might get, though, so beware those if you haven't finished one or both games.

To reiterate, AHoodedFigure's Mass Effect Challenge is pretty simple:

Complete one or both games never ONCE choosing a Charm or Intimidate dialogue option. Timed trigger morality choices are fine, getting Paragon or Renegade points is fine, but never pick a blue or red dialogue choice. Then report back and talk about the tone of the game, if it made you feel more helpless or the game more real, or if it made the game more harrowing, or simply bland.

Because of that last possible result, I don't expect anyone to do it, and as I have about as much pull on this site as the moon does on one's toupee, I don't even see this being read, but if you do happen to take the challenge on, let me know.   read

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