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About
No fancy long-winded horseshit here. That's for the blog itself. :P

I'm a writer. I write stuff. Sometimes that means an act of bloggery, other times it means a story, and it occasionally means a long-winded essay about pretentious bullshit. When I blog or write pretentiously about video games, the resultant brain leakage will go here.

Also, I'm fond of cursing. You can decide for yourself whether or not that means this blog is "suggested for mature readers." Me, I don't think it's particularly mature or immature to curse. I think it's simply another mode of expression. I don't like to rely too heavily on it, though, so please do point out excessive cursing in the comments. Tends to dilute the point, you know?

So, you know, read it, don't read it. I don't particularly care.

(But comment if you do read, please! I'm an attention whore, like all writers! ;) )

Cheers.

(Best-of lists and other standard Dtoid accessories forthcoming.)
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Dear BioWare,

I love you guys. I think you're great, and I think Dragon Age 2 is a very good game indeed.

Nevertheless, we have got to talk.

I understand that you probably put the multiple waves of enemies in DA2 so the combat still felt challenging, right? Like, you wanted players to feel empowered 'cause they're making dudes explode, but you wanted them to be challenged by the sheer amount of dudes, yeah? I get it, okay?

Please never do that in a DA game again. Ever.

Please?

Leave it unbalanced if you must, but please don't invalidate my favorite thing about Origins' combat system, okay? I love pretty much everything about this new combat system (give or take a few niggling flaws and underdeveloped features), and I think you should develop it in future DA games, but please, for God's sake, don't lie to me about how many enemies there are in a room. I don't feel challenged at all. I feel bored. Tactical gameplay in the pause-and-plan style is all about sizing up how best to decimate the enemies in a given combat space. If I murder all of them, I don't want to see some more guys swing in from nowhere like some dumb version of Spider-Man, okay? I want the satisfaction of knowing that I successfully planned and executed a combat strategy, and every time some more asshole bastards appear after I've seemingly cleared a room (which is every goddamned fight, give or take), you are robbing me of that joy. Yeah, I suppose I could adapt to the situation or whatever, but this isn't a situation where I'm, say, sneaking into an enemy military installation or something, okay? You have not emotionally prepared me for the possibility of more guys appearing; it just happens, for no goddamn reason at all.

I know there were multiple waves of enemies in certain parts of Origins, and God knows I had problems with that combat system, but at least you had the decency to precede each wave of enemies with a short cutscene, instead of making me feel like you guys are offstage going, "Hey, Neil, why'n'tcha crowbar open that crate of enemies? I think he's about done with this load." You know? I'm gonna put the thing on Casual for the rest of the game now, and I want you guys to know that it's not because I don't know how to defeat your enemies, nor is it because you've made the game too hard. I love roguelikes and SRPGs like Tactics Ogre and Disgaea, okay? I like a challenge just fine. But after forty hours of multi-wave attacks, I want to do whatever I can to shorten the amount of time spent fighting those useless, boring second and third waves you've burdened me with and finish the game, okay? I'm an adult now. Respect my time and money by not using these dumb tricks on me, okay? If you really need all your enemy encounters to be challenging, why don't you design the encounters that way, or at least make the enemies' AI better. You guys are smart. You'll think of something.

Just... Please, oh, please. Never do this again. Not ever. Your players deserve better, and you can do better.

Your friend and fan,

Ffordesoon








How many of you have picked up even a single gaming magazine in the past couple of years? Maybe you were in a bookstore recently, and you just happened to wander over to the magazines, and you scanned the aisles until you found the gaming mags? Do any of you subscribe to one? How about several? If you subscribe to 'em, do you read 'em?

I ask because I might write a blog on the subject, and I'm interested to see the impact print media still has on the hardcore. I've been reading and subscribing to gaming mags for years, myself.

Post your answers in the comments. I'll be interested to see how this shakes out.

Here is a random picture of a puppy to reward you for being good little internet people and taking my survey.









Note: This is not (NOT) a spoiler. Anyone who says it is in the comments will be shot. Trust me, I will be doing the human race a favor.

Dear BioWare,

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for Mass Effect 2. It is, as GlaDOS would say, a "HUGE SUCCESS."

But we all know that. What I want to thank you for is the way you've handled the part after the credits roll.

...Ah, f*** it, let's drop the "thank you letter to BioWare" pretense. That other guy (who I'm not gonna link to 'cause there are maybe spoilers) already did it better, and it's just a tiresome device in general, isn't it? Let's just get on with the part where I say what I want to say.

Okay, so ME2 does something after its credits that I wish all games would do. The first one is pretty self-explanatory: you can start a New Game+ (to go old-school Chrono Trigger with the spacing). This has been mentioned in reviews everywhere AND it's self-explanatory, so I don't feel the need to elaborate further.

However, the way this is presented to the player is pretty interesting, and it allows for a nice segue into the second point. So: you beat the game, credits roll, you break into a Crono-style fist pump or a frowny face, et cetera. Then - and this is the brilliant bit - you're given a choice. The game tells you that you can go back to the main menu and start a New Game+, OR you can continue the game AFTER the credits.

Now, Oblivion, Fable, and the like already do that, and that's great. Hell, maybe those games do this other thing too, but I never completed them, and it's still cool, so shut up.

Anyway, you can continue playing the game with your current save, do any missions you missed, any DLC will work with it, and yada yada yada. Now, that's pretty cool in and of itself, but what's really cool is being able to go up to all of the characters you've grown attached to over the course of the game - that didn't get killed at the end, obviously - and have a little bonus conversation with them about the ending of the game and the Big Decisions you made during said ending.

It's a small thing, I know, but it's still REALLY FRICKIN' COOL, because it feels sort of like an after-credits epilogue. It's as if the characters want to know what's next just as badly as you do.

...

Okay, yeah, I know, it doesn't seem like much, but it really is pretty affecting when you see it. It's just, it's a nice little bonus from your friends at BioWare, and it's much appreciated. Yes, they revert to their pre-credits dialogue after the one conversation, but I still appreciated that little touch. So few games let you talk to everybody you met over the course of the game after the main story is over, and even fewer let you know how your decisions affected them, and...

SHUT UP YOU GUYS IT WAS COOL NO YOU GUYS SUCK CHOKE SOB

Anyway.








Oh crap.

Oh crapcrapcrap.

I just realized something about Mass Effect 2 that... unsettles me. Because if it turns out I'm right in my suspicion, it's going to be a hard choice on a level that the first ME only dreamed of. This is only idle speculation, obviously, but it would be massively cool if it happened.

So your save from the first game carries over to the second and third installments.

And Bioware is keen on romantic subplots in their games.

And they just recently revealed a trailer for ME2 that shows Dr. Liara T'Soni, who happened to be my (and, by extension, Shepard's) flame of choice in the first game, seeing Commander Shepard come out of the shadows and saying something along the lines of "Shepard! But... you're dead!"

Anybody connecting the dots here?

Let's assume that Bioware has another romantic subplot in ME2. If you romanced Liara in the first game, does this mean that you aren't still together with her? If you're not still together with her, can you get back together with her? Perhaps she has someone else now? What if you fancy a new character more than Liara, but Liara has been chastely waiting for your safe return? Do you cheat with the newcomer, or do you stay with Liara? How would she react to the revelation that you cheated? Would Ashley (the other girl you could bump uglies with) react the same way? Do you stay with the character you've grown to love, or do you risk pissing that character off by finding someone new?

Yes, that's right. For the first time in a video game (that I'm aware of, anyway), you would have the conscious decision to cheat and the potential for meaningful consequences as a result of that. I submit that if you've already spent a whole game with one character by your side, that character's disapproval would carry a great deal of emotional weight. You have been through shit with this character, and now you're gonna throw it all away?

But what if New Character is really cool? What if you really have "moved on?" And what if you could somehow finesse a threesome, as you could in Jade Empire? ;)

See? It boggles the mind. If there is a romance subplot in ME2, it will be genuinely hard for me to pursue a new girl, but if I like her enough... I mean, I honestly don't know what my choice would be. It would be damn hard to make either way....

Anyway, I just thought that would be really cool if Bioware did it. Anyone else think so?







Ffordesoon
12:21 PM on 03.06.2009

Just posted this as a comment here, but I figured the relevant portion was important enough to warrant its own post. Changed slightly to make it feel more complete as a piece of writing:

With video game storytelling, the biggest problem is pretty simple: devs are usually so focused on making the game a "good" experience for the player that they feel compelled to take fewer risks with storytelling. As a result, you get a lot of cliches that could be easily subverted but aren't, and very few genuinely surprising moments of real emotion. As long as developers confuse positive emotions with real emotions, we won't see nearly as many truly great stories in games as we see in other mediums. Think about, for example, how you felt when Aeris died. Now imagine that you could have saved her, but didn't make it in time. Oh, and it autosaves as soon as she dies. I submit that that moment would have been substantially more affecting. It would not, however, be a moment most devs would dare put into their games, because that would "negatively affect the player experience."

Not that gamers aren't to blame as well. Consider the example of a game like Dead Spsce; I was often amused to see reviewers mention that Isaac felt "like a glorified repairman" at certain points, completely missing the fact that Isaac's job is that of - shock horror! - a repairman. But because the game didn't go out of its way to "make you feel like a badass," it was criticized.

So yes, this idea that the player is entitled to "feeling good" throughout a game is messing up otherwise interesting stories, and I won't stand for it any more.

[rousingspeech]Now who's with me!?[/rousingspeech]

Anyway. Something to consider next time you're hammering away at the buttons.







Ffordesoon
12:22 AM on 01.07.2009

First blog post at Dtoid. Shame it couldn't have been more positive.

----

Here's the truth:

I love Dtoid as much as the next guy, but 1UP is and always has been the best in the business. Not everything they've put out has elevated the discussion, but the vast majority of it has. Even the stuff that wasn't very stimulating intellectually has still been written in clear, focused prose by people who are not just passionate about games, but legitimately excellent writers. These people have defined and refined the vocabulary of games criticism for damn near a quarter-century, and they have done it with panache to spare.

UGO seems to have come in and shat all over that proud history. Even more insulting, they have done this while praising 1UP's "authentic voice" and "tenured writers."

Really, UGO? You just kicked every one of those "tenured writers" you value so much in the balls with spiked boots, and those people WERE that "authentic voice."

I will be interested to see what 1UP.com becomes, but I greatly doubt that the standard set by these fine people will ever be matched by any others, let alone surpassed. 1UP as it was no longer exists. Perhaps others under the UGO umbrella will do fine things with the brand, and perhaps they will even do great things. All is certainly not lost, and change is, on balance, a good thing.

But the real 1UP is gone, and it's never coming back as it was. We shall see what transpires in the days ahead, but today is, without exaggeration, the end of a golden era in games journalism, and we should all mourn, because that era is never coming back.

Let us all take a moment to pray for those let go, and to wish them godspeed as they do new and exciting things in the months ahead. Because the present is - and there's no other phrase that fits here - monumentally shitty.

That, at least, is how it seems to me on this bleak January day.

Any thoughts?