Draft Effect 2

I've finished my second draft of my Honours creative piece, and the results are a lot more satisfying than the first draft. Then again, that's always been the case. I consider the first draft as a throw away item that only exists to better understand what the general idea is. In this case, the first draft was an attempt to try something different, which I quickly learnt wasn't the right choice.

So that means I have a full month to iron out my exegesis, and hope that my supervisors like the creative bit without having to change too much of it. I like where it is now, the only thing I'd like to do is expand on it, but I don't have the available word count to do that, which is a shame. Maybe I can do it after all this is done.

But Besides Gaming...

Life's been good lately. Work's been good. Uni's been good. Gaming's been ... good.

What? You really thought I'd say something else?

I tell you what's been really good. There's this warm fuzzy feeling I seem to be getting a lot of lately, it's that feeling of friendship so strong I just can't help but smile.

Then again, there's a small concern regarding said friendships. If it continues to be as good as it is now ... and we haven't signed a contract negotiation yet ... does that mean I'm getting free friendship credits? I mean, that's cool and all, but I'd hate to think I'm ripping people off!

There's someone out there right now going 'you're such a dork'. Have I mentioned I like that? I think it's about time I embrace it instead of being embarrassed about it. I've kinda retreated from it at times, don't ask me why, but if this is the person I am ... well, fuck the lot of 'em, I'm going ahead with it anyway! Don't like it? See if I care!

This is me, the whole chebangabang, worts and all. If you're reading this, that means a lot. Really.  A lot.


Why Bioware Shouldn't Change Mass Effect 3

I'll make a disclaimer first: I haven't seen the ending, nor have I come close to finishing Mass Effect 3. But my concern doesn't stem from what said ending is, it's the repercussions that could occur if Bioware go ahead with their just announced plans to 'flesh out' the ending and answer more questions.

Now of course, there's every possibility that the planned DLC was already going to do just that, but by now the entire team must be wondering 'Shit, better re-write it all then' thanks to the maddening backlash from fans over the past few weeks. That anger is fair, not everyone will agree with a creative decision (i'm looking at you, George Lucas), but that should never mean changing a game just to suit an audience. Never.

Imagine if Ridley Scott changed Blade Runner again because the final cut left fans empty? Or the creators of Lost re-shoot the entire last episode? Or, heaven help us, Georgie boy takes out all of the additions to Star Wars! The fact of the matter is, none of that will ever happen. Why? Because as much as we like to think that these special little gems of the entertainment industry belong to us, the fans, they don't in the slightest. Who are we to tell a creator that he should change his own creation?

You can bag things out, tell people that they did a bad job if you really want, that's what fans do. The just recently released movies John Carter and The Hunger Games will no doubt have fan backlash, whether that be for changes made from the original story or even to the look and feel of a certain character because it doesn't 'fit' within what certain fans thought they should look like. Even Harry Potter had a few fans scratching their heads at times, but did JK change it? Of course not!

That's the crux of the problem. You want to do right by the fans, give them what they want, but some things should never go that way. I'm writing a story at the moment, something that's been building in my head for years, and I know deep down that if it ever got published and people started reading it, there are certain elements where they may or may not appreciate it, certain events which they won't like. Once you get attached to a character, you don't ever want anything to happen to them. But as a creator, as the person behind those characters, you know exactly what needs to be done to create the right kind of story. And only you, the creator, should judge that.

Joss Wheddon had a similar problem with Serenity, killing off certain fan favourites. He believed at the time that it was the right thing to do, and even though I wish he didn't have to, IT WAS the right thing to do. It made us sad, to lose such loveable creations, and that's exactly what such a story should do to its audience. In no way should Joss apologise for it (and I don't believe he ever did.)

And so we have Mass Effect, where the ending wasn't what people expected. I understand that the character is your own, you've shaped the course of the events the way you see fit, I get that. But this is still Bioware's baby, and they made the choice to end it the way they did. They know what Shepard thinks, what makes him or her tick, not the audience. Giving players a choice is important, but when it comes to saving the galaxy from a threat greater than anything before it, some things should never be placed with a simple answer in mind.

There's a few things I've read the last few days that put a light on the situation that some people may not have considered. Firstly, the last few moments of the game shouldn't be considered 'the end'. The ENTIRE GAME is the ending, with each character you've come to love finding a conclusion of sorts to their own story.

I'll say it right here. I don't like Shepard, I never have. He/she is a rather bland character, especially if you strictly follow renegade or paragon decisions. Compared to everyone else among the universe, Shepard is one dimensional. He's the greatest hero ever born, or a smart ass, nasty soldier who still wants to save the Earth. There's very little middle ground to play with, and that's always been my biggest gripe with the series. I appreciated the option of choice, but I would have just as much enjoyed playing the game the way Bioware felt was appropriate story progression. In the end, it's those that follow Shepard, the colourful party to choose from, that makes this series so enjoyable to watch.

Secondly, for any game with a plight as big as Mass Effect, to have anything else but a shock and difficult ending would have been a failure. I can't believe there are fans out there who actually want a happy ending! It's your character, sure, but to suddenly go from the end of the world to all rainbows and butterflies would have been just as bad, if not worse, than what we have now.

Thirdly, with DLC on the way, the end isn't even here yet. Sadly, by allowing the fans to dictate what that DLC may be sets a bad example for the rest of the industry. Suddenly, fans will have the power to determine how video games may end, and developers will be on tippy toes, praying they don't have a similar situation befell their own creation.

Flash back to a year ago, and the character development of Infamous 2, where Cole MacGrath was visually changed for story reasons to the shock and horror of its fan base. Instead of sticking to their guns, Sucker Punch fell on its sword and reverted the character back to his original look to appease those fans. Flash forward to later this year and the new Tomb Raider, which has a similar situation. Imagine if fans decide that this new Lara, softened up a little and made more believable, isn't what they want. Does Crystal Dynamics hold its own and build a sequel around the same character, or watch it burn in bargain bins and start over again? Only time will tell.

As for this story, it's a sad situation. I love Mass Effect, and as I've said before, I believe that the ending will create controversy because it isn't what I was expecting ... but that's exactly what I want! I want to be shocked and surprised, I want to feel heartbreak and the thought of losing everything I fought for. I don't want a happy ending where everything ties together in a neat little red bow. To think that this creative vision doesn't fit the lofty standards of fans has split the industry in two is a sad, sad state of affairs. But I'll keep on playing, and I'll enjoy every minute Bioware allows me.


An ME Update ... would have been here if it wasn't for my PS Vita.

Not that I'm not playing Mass Effect because I'm not enjoying it, far from it, it's been a blast so far. But (and I'm sure I've mentioned it before), being a slow gamer that I am, I'm still trying to finish all of the trophies in Uncharted: Golden Abyss.

Perhaps I should explain why. You see, after all these years ... I don't have a Platinum trophy to my name. My Xbox gamer score is fairly solid, I've finished a majority of the puzzles on my 3DS, but this one little thing missing on my gaming record has started to bug me. Not that I'm going to go out, find the cheapest, crappiest game on the market just to fix things up nice and neatly either.

So, seeing in my Vita with a nice shiny (all be it, fake) trophy seemed like a good idea ... at the time. Damn Mass Effect and its need for my constant attention.

To make matters worse, I finally started watching A Game of Thrones. My God, what an awesome show. Such levels of detail, highly entertaining characters and dialogue, some intense moments of emotion ... and there hasn't really been an action sequence yet. That's testament to how good the show is, that it doesn't need to resort to all out blood and guts to hit the point home.

Yes, there's a little of that in there so far (no doubt more to follow, only a handful of episodes in so far), and yes, there's nudity too. It's a trend that HBO are happy to continue, and why not? If realism is to be made of a fantasy world, might as well go all the way. It's certainly working here.

I'll get back to ME eventually, probably tomorrow. I will say, however, that the little side quests on IOS (infiltrator and the ME app) are nice distractions to the main game. Not perfect by any means, but it's not bad either. In fact, I'd go as far to say if you don't want to play the multiplayer aspect of ME3 at all (and I know some of you don't), I'd download the free app to your iPhone, check in every few hours and bump up your Galactic Readiness enough to improve your ending without as much hassle.

As for the ending itself? Since I haven't seen it, I won't talk about it too much. But I read a tweet the other day that kinda made sense. Don't take the last few minutes as the end, take the entire game as the end. Especially for all the minor characters, that's exactly the way I'm taking it as I go along.


Mass Effect 3 - Day Three

I'm getting a little tired of having to visit the Citadel so often. It seems every time I leave, someone messages me telling me their waiting there for a quick chat. Every. Single. Time. It doesn't help that there's so much other stuff to do, yet the events on the Citadel itself are linked to some of the more interesting quests and stories in the game.

I won't spoil it, but there's a surprise or two.

Arguably my favourite moment so far involves one of the characters I've come to appreciate the most ... and it isn't Wrex. Now, don't get me wrong, he's a great character and wonderfully voice acted, it's a fantastic race. But Garrus has always been a character I've enjoyed, thanks largely to his relationship with my ManShep. He's like a brother, the kind of guy you can count on in a crisis, can have a heart to heart with, and never find a reason to argue.

Now, I gather that there are some of you who will disagree, though I argue that the relationships between characters can so easily be affected by the choices you make, and these choices will ultimately determine how the characters themselves play out on screen. So while my Garrus may be my personal favourite because of his attitude and banter, the same cannot be said for others who have played the entire Mass Effect differently to me.

That just goes to show you the depth this game allows, by providing unique tales built around a core narrative, all based upon how you want to play it. For me, I'm trying to complete as much as I possibly can in the first run, which provides a deeper insight into the universe around ManShep.

But getting back to that moment I mentioned, there's a sequence on the Citadel involving Garrus that really did make me smile, and there's been many of them in the few hours I've put into this. Bioware know how to pull on the heart strings while also making you laugh aloud when the time is right, and that's exactly the kind of detail I like. You can really tell they love this world just as much as I do playing within it, even down to the most simplest of missions.

Unfortunately, my iTunes account as decided to play up, so no update on the portable spin-off just yet, hopefully the next update you see here will include some details on that little venture. I will mention, though, that I've upgraded to the limited edition of the game, which includes the first lot of story based DLC. When I get to that, I'll bring out the spoiler alert banner and throw it up ... just in case.


Mass Effect 3 - Day Two

Technically, this is day two through day five, since I haven't had a chance to update my progress. But I'll make this brief, and again, spoiler free for those of you as far into the game (or behind) as I am. Which isn't far.

From what I can tell, I'm a fair chunk of the way through the main story, but there's so many side quests (as is custom for the series) that I keep finding myself going back and forth through certain planets and systems, picking off a quest here or there at a time. It's a good, even spread, and each quest feels like an important part of the story arc as a whole, to the point that character sacrifices and progress play a part. There's also a ton of new equipment and upgrades to find along the way, which makes things interesting.

One of the things I enjoyed from the previous ME games, the mini-game modes such as searching planets for minerals and unlocking doors by linking particular strands of data, are both missing this time around. I guess enough noise was made by fans who found both time consuming and annoying for Bioware to take them out, but I must admit, I kinda miss it. Then again, I can understand why they've been left on the cutting room floor this time, what with the faster pace of certain levels and the combat coming thick and fast, stopping to find enough Palledium or breaking into a certain room breaks up said pacing. Still, I have a soft spot for both, so it's a shame they couldn't have modified them a little instead of dumping both entirely.

There's a few smaller elements that have been added, however, to make up for the loss. Side quests can be discovered simply by walking past the right NPC's and overhearing a conversation. Strangely, you don't have to hear the entire string of dialogue for the quest line to pop up in your list, which can account for at least a handful of quests in my log where I stared at them for a second, wondering where they came from again.

Certain NPC's will also trigger an option for Shepard to butt in, taking the side of a character or making a suggestion to clear up an argument. I've seen a few of these in the Citadel, it's a neat distraction, but it's a little too easy to figure out which side is the right side, and which is wrong. Still, a few extra reputation points won't go astray.

There's a ton more upgrades to unlock as well, and a few of extra powers can be discovered after a conversation or two. The med bay now acts as an optional powers distribution service, allowing you to completely wipe your progress and start again, or purchase additional powers once they are discovered. I've added Warp Ammo to my traditional extras so far (incendiary ammo and Biotic Charge are my personal favourites, two I hope to bring into multiplayer at a later date.)

Unfortunately, the more I do delve into this game, the more technical bugs I do come across. Again, they aren't game breaking, but it's a shame that some of the cut scenes don't quite run at a decent frame rate when the action is too great, and some choppy or blurred textures pop in and out as certain sequences load. I would have thought Bioware could have cleared up these problems by now, three games into a series plus the advantage of extra development time after last years delay. Still, considering the content in the game even 10 hours in (i'm a slow player, so ten hours to me may be only two to others) and the amount of fun I'm having, it's a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.

Check back soon for Day three, where I take on a handful more quests and return to the Citadel to catch up with an old flame, along with a rap on multiplayer soon and a look at the iTunes exclusive Mass Effect tie-in game, Infiltrator.


Mass Effect 3 - Day One


Alright, I'll start with the basics first and get into the meatier elements later. Safe to say, it's good. Real good. Not that I was expecting anything less from a series I've grown to love more and more since my first taste back on the Xbox 360 all those years ago (true story, I was given ME1 free at a Microsoft event in Sydney. Before that, I didn't really know much about it. Silly me.)

The original plan was to play through all three games on PC, start to finish. Since I haven't had the chance to do that (yet), I'll be playing this on PS3, where my existing game save from ME2 awaited the upload. Yeah I know, I've heard about the bugs that seem to only exist on this edition of the game, but so far I haven't experienced anything of the sort (and if I have, I haven't noticed it), so I'm not worried about it.

Story wise, it's fairly full on. There's a few twists, though most of those were kinda obvious if you've been following the DLC updates to ME2. There's a nice flow to the events so far, cut scenes seemlessly slip into the action and the dialogue has some nice emotional moments, with both new and returning characters filling out the roster. Like I said, no spoilers, but there's some really cool spots already in the early stages, and some surprisingly humorous moments too. Surprising since, well, there's a war going on!

I've stuck with the default Shep since the start. My reason for this, simply put, is because I feel he's the character Bioware designed the game around to begin with. That's no disrespect to FemShep or any alternative design, I'll muck around with those at a later time, but I believe in playing the game the way it was intended. In keeping with that, I kept the RPG elements to the fore, since there are some new options at play to alter the style of the game entirely, skipping certain chatty moments to get straight into the action. Yeah, I doubt I'll ever change to that, I'm having more fun chatting to everyone I see than just shooting them.

Speaking of RPG, the character building has taken a good step forward this time around. The same skill sets exist but have been fleshed out to the max, more like a traditional RPG or MMO in that respect. I'm liking that option, it seems to add a little more strategy to upgrading than before (do you go offensive, increasing your attack, or defensive to up your health and armour ratings?) As I always seem to do, I'm trying to balance it as best as I can, and so far so good.

Weapons and armour can also be upgraded, with new items discoverable on the battlefield or, if you wish, they can be purchased from the multitude of outlets available on the Normandy itself. I've already tricked out a few weapons, adding scopes and larger ammo clips.

If nothing else, because I've uploaded an existing character, I feel as if he hasn't lost much of his touch from the old game. I maintained my existing level cap and skill points (not all of them, it seems, but most of them), and with new upgrades to each skill now available, it seems to make Shep even MORE powerful than before, instead of going back to default with nothing to start with and trying to build up again. Thankfully, ally characters also upgrade to the same level.

I know some people hate it, but I love the tactics of Mass Effect, pausing the game to quickly change weapons and commands. Bioware have said they've streamlined the combat, but honestly, it feels about the same to me. Maybe a little faster, but that sense of satisfaction in ordering a character to strip an enemy of its shield barrier, asking another to throw a grenade, then follow Shep in with a barrage of fire hasn't been lost. I love it!

I'm sure anyone who started from scratch would find no difficulty in upgrading and enjoying the action at the same time. Then again, if you ARE starting a new game, where the hell have you been in the first place! Besides the fact that there's no 'previously on' or animated re-telling of events, so you'd be completely lost.

I'll end this first update with a few brief snippets on ME3's presentation. The game looks great, really great, though I've always thought the human character models fail big time in detail compared to the many alien species on show.

On one particular level, I found myself watching what was going on in the background half the time, such was the added detail as the war carried on no matter what you found yourself doing. Having said that, I have noticed a few glitches here and there, but nothing game breaking (not even close).

So far so good then. There's so many moments I can already see on the horizon, so much story to dig into. That's what makes any Bioware game so damn compelling, they really do know how to tell a good story.


Too long

I realised something important tonight. I don't really belong here. But I don't know where I do. It kinda reminds me of a character I'm working on. He exists within this current system, and feels like he belongs there, but as soon as another option is shown to him, he begins to question his sense of belonging.

There are days where I wish I was given an option. I'd go back to Sydney in a heartbeat, or Melbourne if I dare.

In all honesty though, I want to go home. My real home. Because Ireland feels like the only place where I truly belong.

I blame myself. I allow so many simplistic things to bug me, and despite the best intentions of those around me, I still let it happen. It's just not always easy to let certain things die down, and I realise that's a silly thing to say, but it's true. Its a fault of mine, that's always held me back. That and my severe lack of confidence. But I have no one to blame but myself for that, I can only continue to push on and try my best.

Life isn't meant to be easy, I get that, but I don't have to grin and bare it just for the sake of it. That's why I'm working as hard as I can to make this year count, I can't let any opportunities slip any longer.


Saving Face

I've decided not to use Facebook for a while. I know I've said it before, but I feel this time it's important. Why? Because it isn't worth the time. Staying in contact is the argument I hear all the time, and I agree, but picking up a phone and calling or sending a text message (which I plan to do more often), is just as easy as opening an app or a laptop and typing a few words. Add to that, calling someone and chatting means the conversation is far more worthwhile, upfront and enjoyable than watching a sentence or two go back and forth, especially if there are long pauses.

Ultimately, it's the fact that the emotion behind the conversation is lost behind the digital space that annoys me the most. If I want to convey something, I want people to know exactly what I mean, not type a stupid ':p' face every five bloody seconds.

Maybe this is a sign that I'm growing up a little. I miss late night phone chats, I miss talking to people I love.

It's just a small part of a much larger plan. There's a few things that need to change, now that I've settled down at the new home. The ultimate goal is to find peace, to enjoy life and not worry about everything around me. I'm not saying I'm stressing out, far from it, but I'm not exactly comfortable at the moment. I've got a lot of projects to work on that can open a lot of doors, but if I'm not happy, if I feel as if something doesn't fit, then it needs to change. No more sitting around waiting.

Those who know me, know I've tried these things before. This time isn't different, but I'm not going to falter this time. Because for once, the timing feels right. Change is in the air, remember?


My name is Commander Shepard, and this is the best Blog on the Citadel

The wait is nearly over. I can almost taste the front cover, just out of reach of my outstretched arms, taunting me with every wave of its brooding FemShep. I've been having dreams lately, filled with a deadly invasion of red ringed xbox consoles and shut down PSN servers, the ultimate nightmare as my game of choice drifts away into the sky never to be seen again...

What? So I'm a little excited about a video game, what's new! You know I'm a passionate gamer, it's my past time of choice, and come Thursday I'll have the ultimate game finally within my grasp. Will it be the greatest thing ever made? Probably not, but I don't care. I love this series, I love the characters and the universe, everything about it. It's what a modern Star Wars could so easily have been, if it wasn't for whiney teens and a bearded looney (not, not Obi-Wan. Think flannel.)

I do have my concerns. What will co-op be like, another cheap add-on like Dead Space? Will Shep die to save the galaxy in a lame, over the top finale? Or will Bioware pull through with a satisfying conclusion without it feeling stereotypical of today's gaming designs? All will be revealed, when I reveal the revealing revelations of Mass Effect 3 over the coming days (spoiler alert, I'm not playing as FemShep).

In the meantime, this PS Vita will have to do. Oh look, Uncharted!