With every complaint about EA that comes out more or less everyday, BioWare Co-founder Greg Zeschuk has stuck up for the publisher he worked for once upon a time.
In the years working at BioWare, Zeschuk reveals how his time spent working with EA was positive but at times the opportunities EA had presented, though good, were sometimes too much to handle. “The best analogy I use, in a positive way,” explains Zeschuk, “is EA gives you enough rope to hang yourself with.
If you’re not really into first-person military shooters, but love how ‘Battlefield 4′ looks, then you’ll be glad to know that the next entry in the ‘Mass Effect’ series, and ‘Dragon Age III: Inquisition’ will both use DICE’s next-generation engine, Frostbite 3.
Bioware has released quite a few stats regarding ‘Mass Effect 3’ as part of their retrospective of the series taking place at PAX East. As a whole, gamers took the paragon path, played as soldiers, didn’t particularly like Kaidan, and chose the male Shepard.
However you feel about the ending of the ‘Mass Effect’ trilogy, there’s no denying that following Shepard across all those adventures, along with the Normandy crew, is one of the best experiences video games have to offer, and one particular trailer captures it all.
A few tweets here and there, and a possible new DLC for ‘Mass Effect 3′ is yet again on our radars.
Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Gameplay
How much can one of the seminal Role Playing Game Franchises of the generation improve? More than you’d think.
Many fans of the series will tell you Mass Effect is a heavily story-driven game, and I whole heartedly agree. The extensive lore, the expansive universe and diverse cast of characters makes for a compelling narrative, but what is a game without good gameplay? This is where Mass Effect divides gamers. To some, it’s a reasonably fun third person shooter; to others a poor example of the genre that’s not enjoyable to play. Mass Effect 3’s executive producer Casey Hudson openly invited suggestions from the loyal community for the next Mass Effect, so here are my ideas to make Mass Effect 4 the best game in the series yet.
At the end of the day, regardless of it you prefer intense action in your games or (like me) favor good writing, gamers want something that is genuinely fun to play while preserving enough difficulty to retain a rewarding feeling when completed. With subsequent iterations of the franchise, BioWare successfully evolved the gameplay from its original clunky and often frustrating beginning to a perfectly serviceable third person shooter. However, if Mass Effect 4 could polish its mechanics and add enough complexity to its already cool foundation of balancing shooting with magic-like biotic powers, a new crowd of players might get on board – maybe even some of the ones turned off by the original.
Let’s play a little game. What do the following video games have in common?
-Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
-Far Cry 3
-Splinter Cell: Blacklist
-New Super Mario Bros. 2
If you guessed “they are all on the same console”, you might want to re-read that list. If you guessed “they are all sequels”, DING DING DING! You win!
It is often that you will see a consumer, or critic, of video games complain about the amount of sequels there are on the market compared to new IPs. There are valid reasons why consumers don’t like sequels. These range from the argument that the gameplay is mostly the same as the previous entries to the notion that the story has been dragged on too far and something fresh has to be created. The word repetition is used a lot in these conversations and arguments.
However, there are many reasons why we need sequels. The first thought that comes to my mind is perfection. There aren’t many game series where we look back and think “The first game was the best.” Developers make sequels so they can perfect ideas presented in the first game in their series. Take the Uncharted series for example. I hardly ever hear fans arguing that Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was the best game in the series. I have only ever heard discussions between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. This is because Naughty Dog took everything that didn’t work in the first game and improved on it. Of course, sometimes certain elements are not necessarily an improvement, but it’s more of a step in the right direction- experimentation, if you will. Leading back to last week’s article on Indie Games, Indie developers produce sequels so they can also perfect all the ideas they had from their first game. Torchlight 2 took all the ideas from Torchlight 1, made some changes, added much wanted co-op, and crafted a much better game (in my opinion anyway). Furthermore, not changing things that could be considered broken or need improvement could also ruin a franchise.
Unfortunately, some series go on longer than they should. Resident Evil 6 comes to mind when it comes to long-running franchises. Originally a survival horror game, many fans and critics believe the Resident Evil series has left its survival horror roots behind and become more of an action game. Is this a bad thing? Well, apparently, yes. There are no complaints of Resident Evil’s gameplay being repetitive throughout titles yet gamers still think the series has been going on for too long. Gamers still want to go back to Resident Evil because they hope it will eventually returns to its horror roots. Gamers want to return to the Resident Evil universe mainly because of it’s unique, zombie slaying gameplay. A lot of the time, gameplay is the reason a game is given a number or a spin off title at the end of its name. The three different Far Cry games have nothing in common, story wise, but all follow base gameplay elements. We need sequels because we love the gameplay on offer from particular franchises.
Storytelling in games is continually getting better and recent games have shown that gameplay isn’t necessarily needed to create a worthwhile experience. It’s already known that The Walking Dead: The Game, which had very little gameplay, is getting a sequel/ second season. The Mass Effect series is a recent series that gamers came back to because of its story. We wanted Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 because we wanted to see Shepard’s journey through to the end. Bioware crafted a world with plenty of lore and gave players the ability to create their own hero and dictate his actions. We became attached to our Shepard’s and begged for sequels (even though the series was always going to be a trilogy). It wasn’t the gameplay that kept players going back to the Mass Effect series (I’m not saying it wasn’t good gameplay), it was the storytelling. We need sequels because we want to go back into a game’s universe and play apart in more amazing stories and adventures.
The amount of time between the release of sequels can also play a part in whether they are wanted or not. If there are two or three years between releases, nostalgia or just the longing to get back into a game’s universe is enough to induce the demand for a sequel. Sometimes, if sequels are released too close together, it can leave fans feeling ripped off if the gameplay hasn’t changed that much because they were doing the same thing in another game six to 12 months ago.
You were all probably waiting for me to bring it up, but Call of Duty is a prime example. Fans come back to Call of Duty because of the great gameplay and addictive multiplayer. However, that can also backfire on a series because fans who had had enough of the gameplay weren’t ready for more of the same within such a short period of time.
From a business side, when a franchise makes a publisher and developer money, it allows them to do new things. Insomniac Games has created many great and different franchises over the years. From Spyro to Ratchet and Clank to Resistance, each of their franchises has had multiple sequels which change certain gameplay elements to keep things fresh, yet it keeps the story and base gameplay that gamers loved. Each franchise gave them and their publisher – Sony – enough money to fund more great games and franchises. If Fuse takes off early this year, it could be another way to allow Insomniac to continue creating games.
We also have to think about the risks associated with creating new IP. If you were a publisher or developer, would you rather create something that you knew had a pretty good chance of selling or something that you have no idea how consumers are going to take to? Just think about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for a moment.Reckoning was a new IP that 38 Studios, Big Huge Games and EA took a risk. Reckoning was a spectacular game that didn’t sell enough copies to make a profit. Due to not selling enough copies of their game 38 Studios ended up going bankrupt and were sued by Rhode Island (no, not another developer, that place in America) for fraud because they couldn’t pay back the $75M Rhode Island lent them.
Although gamers are often complaining about how many sequels there are on the market compared to new IPs, we all love them. We need sequels because they help perfect established ideas, provide us with many more hours of spectacular gameplay, allow us to jump back into much loved game worlds, and because they allow developers to make enough money to continue creating great entertainment for us.
Ladies and gentlemen, readers of Analog Addiction, connoisseurs of the fine arts, and hand models used in lotion advertisements; welcome to a column I used to do on my previous blog that I like to call “Reviews of Games I Haven’t Played” (RGHP). I like to call it that because “Grossly Inaccurate Biased Ideas of What a Game is About Based Solely on Second-Hand Information” (GIBIWGABSSHI) was already taken.
RGHP was one of the few good things to come out of that blatantly asinine blog and I’m glad to be bringing it to Analog Addiction, thusly lowering their bars of quality for eons to come (Heh heh. I said ‘come’).
I don’t want to repost my older entries because, well, that’d be quite lazy. So, please allow me to inaugurate the first official Analog Addiction Reviews of Games I Haven’t Played with the distinct and controversial Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 3
Developed by: Bioware Corp.
Published by: EA
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U
Release Date: March 6th, 2012 (North America), November 18th, 2012 (North America, Wii U)
The first Mass Effect is one of my most cherished gems. Having beaten it exactly twenty-four times, I can definitely call myself a
sad human being loving fan of the series. The living, breathing universe was so densely packed with details and fleshed out characters that I couldn’t help but be completely engrossed with the mythos and lore. Did you know that salarians have insanely long names and that only 10% of their population is female, not due to chance, but because they deliberately make it that way through intentional fertilization of certain eggs? I didn’t even have to check the mass effect wikia for that fact. I’m just an insane fan.
Then I played Mass Effect 2. While I did enjoy the characters a lot (even Zaeed, who proved that DLC characters aren’t crap), the game did leave a lot to be desired. Its level design made supposedly civilian environments feel like they were designed to be warzones from the get-go and the story rushed me to finish it if I wanted to have everyone survive, effectively disabling me from getting to know late-game characters like Legion and Thane, who were two of the coolest characters in the entire series. Plus, the whole inclusion of heat-sink ammo clips didn’t make any gameplay or lore sense. Why would an entire society agree that having weapons that could only be fired when a disposable heat-sink was clipped in was better than having weapons that could fire all 40,000 ‘bullets’ with slight delays for your weapon to cool down? Unless, of course, the gun manufacturers agreed to a monopoly in which their guns would lock out unless the consumer disposed of their old heat-sink and bought more and more clips to keep on firing and holy crap it all makes sense now.
When it comes to the third installment in the series, the cleverly titled Mass Effect 3, I just decided to not even pick up the game. Not because of any sense of mainstream-phobia or fanboy spite. I just lost interest in the whole, arcing story. But if you think that’ll stop me from making an arse of myself while I deconstruct the game I refused to play from the perspective of an outsider, then you’re wrong, you fool!
Mass Effect 3, also known as Sassafrass 3, is the conclusion to Commander Shepard’s struggle to unite the galaxy against the reapers, a bunch of squid-ship artificial intelligences hellbent on destroying sentient life in order to protect sentient life from building artificial intelligences that would eventually destroy sentient life unless the reapers, artificial intelligences, kill the sentient life before it makes the artificial intelligence that would kill the sentient life that made it. I think at some point different colored cupcakes were involved, but I haven’t played it, so I’m completely unsure.
Characters like Keith David Anderson and Jeff ‘Joker’ Moreau were promised as comeback characters, and by god should we not be disappointed. You get to not only watch Keith David’s voice shoot techno demons in the face, but you also get to watch Joker make awkward come-ons to EDI, who now inexplicably has a sexy robot body that I’m assuming (since this is, you know, from the writers who created asari) has fully functioning sex organs. Ashley or Kaiden, not both, are now once again crewmates. I’m not sure if it’s more fun having either a horrible, horrible racist or a whiny, magical chav on crew, but it’s not like you need to bring them along on missions. No, you can safely tuck them away into a corner of the ship while you bring better characters with you to obliterate calamari dreadnoughts.
Now that I’ve pithily described every single facet of the story and characters, it’s a damned good time to mention gameplay. If this is anything like Bass Fish 2, Bioware have aimed for the stars with their gunplay. And by the stars, I mean Gears of War. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. GoW is a fantastic game with some of the best cover-based shooting around (besides the Terminator: Salvation game. It’s shooting sucked, but I have yet to play a game that tops its cover mechanics). Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t the biggest supporter of the addition of “ammo clips” into the game due to its gameplay and lore disadvantages over ME1‘s infinite-clip-but-with-a-cool-down-period guns. I just think that for a game that was built around telling a story and making choices over AAA gun toting, having ME1‘s gun system was preferable. It’s the decision to have different mechanics supporting different core values that really bugs me. What’s wrong with a game that has a single, elemental core idea in which every mechanic strives to serve? Having the infinite clip made it easier to focus on the story. I’m not nitpicking because I’m 100% right and you should all feel ashamed for not agreeing with me.
The original selling point of Mass Effect was it’s dialogue wheel and use of choices that really affected the story. It’s certainly not the best choice system I’ve ever seen; in fact, Telltale’s The Walking Dead has yet to be surpassed in terms of dynamic player choice. But the original Mass Effect was definitely a pioneer of its time, what with the innovative dialogue wheel that displayed shortened versions of what your character would say, instead of lengthy dialogue trees. Does Marxist Intent 3 live up to this ideal of player choice?
Let me demonstrate with this chart:
As you can see, choices in Mass Effect 3 were based on the three starter pokémon from the hit game series, Pokémon. Each one brilliantly conflicts the other, making each choice a gamble of risk, regret, and reward. Does Shepard abstain from the green choice, fully knowing that the red choice has the clear advantage over him? Or does he accept that little niggling worry, because he now has advantages over the blue choice? It’s a completely ingenious system in which each and every conversation you take part in is a chinese chess game, mixing and matching colored choices to see if you can come up victorious. That is, until they release Mass Effect: Yellow Version; Pikachu Edition. Oh, and when you’re arguing with Gary, don’t choose green or red. They’re both too easily defeated by their weaknesses, and Gary just seems to always press the attack too hard. Just stop being stupid and choose squirtle. Besides, the first gym leader is rock-type.
The ending, I heard, stays true to this color-coded decision system, as well as throwing in some psychic-type choices to really mess with your mind. From dream sequences to exploding cupcakes and holographic chubby british kids, it is more than obvious that Bioware crafted a closely knit, easily understood story. In fact, people loved the ending so hard that they demanded an extra ending.
Well, here’s five more endings [warning; coarse language]:
When it comes to role-playing games, Bioware is a craft master. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, The Elder Scrolls, Halo, Pac-Man, and Dragon Age (gee whiz, I’m so funny. I don’t deserve the air I breathe) make up a very impressive pedigree for Bioware. The mechanics built into Mass Effect 3 do revolve around standard RPGs, such as class choices and LEVEL UP, BRO.
Classes like the Soldier are back for players who enjoy being the most hated person at the party, providing ample amounts of guns with no cool superpowers to speak of. Speaking of guns, which I’m sure I haven’t done once in this article, class restrictions on guns have been completely removed, instead opting for the more biotic/tech-focused players to choose any weapon they like, but only one or two of them. This is because removing the differences between classes ensures we don’t have to worry about having different play styles at all. That would be terrible.
The classes that mix with the Soldier are allowed more weapon slots, and the Soldier’s kneecaps snap under the weight of her arsenal. Playing as a biotic is probably still as fun as the last game; being able to yank an enemy into the air for some well placed shots was fantastic in the preceding game. Going for a tech based experience was overhauled in Mass Effect 2, making the Engineer a class that was actually fun to play after disabling enemies’ defenses became a more pressing matter in combat. Is it still good in ME3? Why are you still asking me these questions, you forgetful idiot?!
In the end, as with most conclusions to trilogies, Mass Effect 3 seemed to disappoint most of its fans rather than hold them down and kiss them sensually, as we have come to expect. Maybe it was Bioware’s acquisition by EA, a publisher known for overworking their collected developers and forcing games out the door as soon as possible, all while removing most of a game’s uniqueness to make it a more sellable product, that made ME3 more bemoaned than anything.
Or maybe it’s because fans are whiny babies who will cry about everything they can.
I’m looking at you, Adrian.
Are you in a hurry to play the next game in the Mass Effect series? Well then, you should take it easy, because it’s not coming any time soon.
A Bioware employee, revealed via in interview with Gamer Syndrome, that the next Mass Effect game will be coming in late 2014, or mid 2015. He went on, and said that the full development on the next game started about one or two months ago.
Last month, we reported that the next Mass Effect game will be a completely new game, with new features, on a new engine, and that it won’t feature a “Shepard 2″.
Until we get to play the next game in the series, we have plenty of time to go through the first trilogy once again. Here’s a trailer for nostalgia, or even for new fans, wanting to play something different, and completely immersing:
For more galaxy news, keep it locked to Analog Addiction!
Vlad Pintea is a big fan of the series, and patiently awaits to see just how different the new trilogy is. Until then, you can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, on Skype, My IGN, Steam (all at the same name: vlad94pintea) or Facebook (Vlad Pintea). Have a good day and remember! Stay calm and keep on gaming!