Cunning's Plans

Boardgame Geekery

by on Aug.14, 2013, under Board Games

In the last couple of weeks I’ve played a number of new games – most of them pretty great – and some old ones with some new people. I’ve written my experienced with a brief description of the game; I wouldn’t say they are reviews, but are just my first impressions. I’ve given each a really arbitrary rating on the following scales:

Fun:
* “I would rather play Snakes and Ladders”
***** “I’m tempted to stay in all weekend playing this”

Complexity:
? “I could play this game competently at 6am after a night on the town”
????? “I have to keep a mug of coffee topped up and the rules open on the table”

Sentinels of the Multiverse

Sentinels is essentially a coop card game where each player is a different character with their own deck of cards, some single use and some ongoing/equipment. There’s a central supervillain character with his own deck, who spawns minions of various types that generally deal additional damage or have other nasty effects, and an environment which has mostly negative effects on the heroes. You take it in turns and try to kill the villain before you all die.

I’m not really into comic books (outside of a couple of webcomics), so I have to admit that based on what I’d heard, this game didn’t really appeal to me. Comparisons to Magic The Gathering didn’t help its cause, but I gave it a go and it was a lot of fun.

Because there’s a large number of combinations of heroes, environments and villains, each of which with completely unique effects, I can see that the game would have a high replay value, although I can also see that greater familiarity with a character would be very useful. There was at least 10 different types of card for each of the two characters I had a go with, and some of them only made sense if you knew what other abilities were available – for instance, one character I played did damage to itself with practically every action, but as I found out had some pretty awesome healing abilities buried further down the deck. That character was actually a lot of fun, as a lot of the abilities had both helpful and harmful effects – one in particular did fairly massive damage to everything, which wiped out a lot of minions, but also injured all of my team mates too… ah well :0 That game ended with one of my passive powers finishing off the Big Bad by making him essentially hit himself in the ear, robbing my compatriot of a chance to unleash his long-in-the-making megahelldeath finishing move (sorry about that).

Definitely want to give this one another go, maybe with the same character but a more challenging villain now that I (sort of) know what I’m doing 8)

Fun: *****
Complexity: ???

Bang!

This is a fun little game about the Wild West. There’s a sheriff, and some assorted outlaws, renegades and deputies, and you have to work out who is what and, probably, shoot them to death. Somewhat similar to Shadow Hunters, but your identity and unique ability is separate from your role, and there’s no mechanism for finding out who is what other than how they act. As the bad guys are all trying to kill the Sherriff, and everyone knows who he is, it’s actually not all that hard to work out the broad strokes, and the combat mechanics are fairly straightforward.

I love the “secret identity” mechanic – big fan of both Shadowhunters and BSG – and Bang! does a great job of doing it in a lighthearted and easy to follow way. Games are quite short and the variety of characters makes for some interesting tactics, but I think where it really wins is that it’s easy to pick up; you don’t need to be massively genre-savvy, or doing a lot of mental calculations to get the hang of it. Four to seven players, can play with less than 100% concentration; perfect for a party game. I’ve added it to my wishlist ☺

Fun: *****
Complexity: ??

Elder Sign

This game pits you as a cadre of paranormal investigators finding their way through a haunted museum. Each turn, you take on a room which has a number of challenges to must complete by rolling dice to match the specified pattern, whilst avoiding certain combinations.

Maybe it was just me, but I thought that for all it’s complexity it was a little too much up to chance, but that may be because it was my first play through and I wasn’t really in a position to contribute strategy until near the end. There are some nice mechanics in here that I’d like to explore again. I always like coop games to end on a knife-edge, and the group I was playing with were very competent; maybe next time we should all have a few beers first to give Cthulhu and his minions a bit more of a chance.

Fun: ***
Compexity: ????

Battlestar Galactica

This wasn’t a new game for me, but I was introducing it to some new people. It ended up extremely close; we (the humans) lost by a single jump prep track; if we’d have been slightly luckier on a dice roll here or a crisis flip there we’d have made it home and dry. Oh well, there’s always next time – some of the people that were playing had previously tried BSG and not liked it, and I think the number of people has a lot to do with it. Really, you need five for a good close game; too few and it’s obvious who the cylons are, any more and it starts to drag between your turns (especially if the cylons aren’t revealed).

Note to self: Scarab is always, always a cylon. Find an airlock and blow him out of it next time.

Fun: ****
Complexity: ????

Pandemic (2013 version)

This is an awesome coop game; I’ve played the original it dozens of times and it remains fun, even though we lose about 50% of the time. The updated version has some tweaked rules and new characters that add some new elements to the game, probably making it a bit easier. The containment specialist can prevent and disease from being added to all cities connected to the one they are in, which is extremely powerful, and all characters can now take cards as an action as well as give them (provided they are both in the city on the card).

We tried playing with 5 people and managed to win one and lose one medium (5 epidemic card) game; we opted to ignore hand limits because of the increased number of players, but still had to be very careful not to run out of cards. I think 4 is probably the maximum you can get away with if you’re going for a hard (6 epi card) game.

Fun: ***
Complexity: ???

Star Trek Catan

If there’s anything nerdier than Catan, it’s Star Trek Catan. Unfortunately I haven’t played vanilla Catan in ages, so I can’t quite remember the differences between it and the ST version, but the major change is character cards – special single* use abilities similar to the permanent ones provided by developing your Cities in cities and Knights. It does mix it up a bit, although someone rightly observed that it adds another element of randomness that makes deep strategy harder.

It was good fun, although I humped myself by choosing poor starting locations and had to really struggle to use various devious means to constantly hamper my opponents just to stay in the running, which I usually try to avoid. In the end it was a pretty close game – I think all four of us were within a point or two of victory.

I now have the urge to dig my Catan Cities and Knights and Seafarers out and give it a go. Might even have to dig out my “Catan: Total War” rules mod…

* weirdly, they are actually double-use abilities. You can use them once, turn them over and use them again before discarding. Works quite well, as some are very useful but only rarely come up, whilst others can get used every turn.

Fun: ***
Complexity: ????

An awesome fre nights of gaming; next time I’d like to give some of these another crack, and break out Catan: Cities and Knights, Puerto Rico or Powergrid… but I’ll have to remind myself of the rules first :-)

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New Chapter

by on May.16, 2013, under Life

I haven’t blogged in a while, not because I haven’t had anything to say, but because I’ve been busy doing stuff. In the last few months. I’ve started an Open University course, taken on wider responsibilities at work and moved house, and I’m frankly exhausted, but the good kind :-)

I’m really pleased with my new digs; plenty of room, good location and a beautiful building. I was looking to buy, bit couldn’t find anything I liked in my price range so I’m still renting. I’ve actually been enjoying kitting it out just how I want, but I’m still missing some fairly important things, mainly because I know just want I want but can’t find it!

Work is a mixture of very interesting and very frustrating; I’ve gone on payroll at my former largest client, and I’ve taken on more of a management role. Whilst I still get my hands dirty fairly regularly, I think that from a career point of view that’s probably the direction should head. It’s odd, because I’d never considered this a career before, but as an abject generalist I suppose it makes sense for me to oversee a bunch of hopefully-talented specialists. Still finding me feet in a lot of ways, but having fun doing so.

The OU course is really interesting, but I’m struggling to find time when I’m in the right state of mind to learn the vast quantity of new info I need to take in. I just need to clear some time to clear my head and get on with it. When I get in the zone it’s actually really good fun to be learning new things again, and hopefully by the end of this module I’ll feel motivated to sign up for another one.

After I’ve sorted out the urgent stuff still on my house list – curtains and internets – I can take some time to relax and reflect on my next steps. For the first time in a long time, I’ve got a lot of things I want to get done and not enough time to do them in.

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The Problem with POSes (continued)

by on Apr.03, 2013, under Life

The previous post on the subject of POSes in EVE Online focused on a simple solution to the immediate problems faced by WH residents that could be implemented without touching the gnarly existing POS code. I got some interesting feedback on it, but to my surprise CCP decided it was worth a bit of sourcecode necromancy to sort these problems out: they have put out a devblog about POS changes in the summer expansion that looks squarely aimed at wormhole residents, including:

  • Removal of sov for Capital Ship Maintenance Arrays (so you no longer need one SMA per capital outside of null)
  • Additon of a personal hangar, based on POCO code (woo)
  • Addition of a personal ship hangar (massive win, if they can deliver)
  • Access to all starbase storage from anywhere within the forceshield (this one is useful for all POS users)
  • Better POS mod placement system (no idea what this is, but the current one sucks so badly that I doubt they can make it worse…)

All in all a huge win for wormholers!

So, what’s next? Well, I’d really like a new starbase system. A single system that will in time replace the current POS, outpost and station systems, scaling from one pilot’s resupply dump (e.g. a GSC at a safespot) up to structures larger and more powerful than the current crop of NPC stations. This totally reimagined system would have a combination of modules (fitted through a similar inteface to the ship fitting system) and branching upgrade paths paid for with PI resources. This would allow a single central “hub” to grow from a modest base camp into a huge and formidable station, and the permanence of upgrading something that cannot be moved or disinvested creates financial and emotional investment in an area of space that is an excellent conflict driver.

Moving the focus from NPC stations to PC starbases in lowsec and highsec opens a lot of options, and is the logical extension of the “players make everything” doctrine at the heart of EVE. The possibliities for starbase 2.0 are endless – from actual WiS content to whole new areas of industry and production. Maybe in the future to capture an enemy starbase you’ll have to contract some dust bunnies to fight their way to the command centre once you have taken down the shields for boarding…

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The Problem with POSes (+ Proposed Solution)

by on Jan.18, 2013, under Computer Games

The CSM minutes are out, and it’s terrible news for those of us hoping for a quick fix for the awful player owned structure mechanics in game. CCP have decided that it’s too much work to completely replace the existing POS system in one expansion, so are spreading the work out over a longer period.

One major reason is that most EVE players don’t use POSes at all. Lowsec/0.0 has NPC stations and outposts, so POSes get used mostly for industry. Wormhole residents live out of POSes, so we have to deal with them whether we like it or not. If you’ve never set up and run a POS, you will know what a huge pain it is. Here’s just some of the main “gotchas” you will face:

  • It literally takes hours to set up
  • requires making a fuel run to empire every couple of weeks (you’d better not go on holiday)
  • Security amongst corpmates is a major problem (and a huge disincentive to recruit people)
  • Storage is hard limited per module, so if you want more space, you need two ship maintainance arrays, and then you need to check each one to work out where you left your ship.
  • There is no personal storage at all; it’s all corp-owned.
  • The running costs mean it’s only worth doing in a group or if you’re already spacerich
  • Even though you spent hours setting them up, they can (and will) get blapped by a couple of dreads in a few minutes, and then if you’re off on holiday – even for the weekend – you are screwed unless you’re part of a large enough group to mount a round-the-clock defence.

A complete overhaul is really needed, but if CCP want to hit most of these problems on the head in one fell swoop, here’s what I propose:

The Space Garage

  • Like a giant anchorable secure container with an SMA
  • A single new in space asset – can even reuse the SMA/corp hangar artwork for now
  • Can be anchored anywhere (that’s not too close to stargates, stations etc, POSes etc)
  • Anchorable by anyone in any non-NPC corp (no roles needed)
  • Functions as a combined ship maintainance array and personal hanger
  • Access limited by default to anchoring character
  • Access can be granted by password (no roles)
  • Uses fuel when “onlined”, automatically goes offline after downtime of inaction
  • Very hard to scan down when offline, fairly easy when online
  • Taking down shields puts it into “reinforced” mode; POCO-like timezone picker to choose when it comes out, at which point it can’t be accessed and must be repaired to 75% to online it again, or destroyed
  • Pops if offline for more than 28 days

Optional:

  • Limit ship capacity so that capitals don’t fit
  • Allow access by personal/corp standings or fleet
  • Have a longer reinforcement timer than POSes to allow time to bring in reinforcements to defend it (e.g. mercs)

Benefits (players):

  • Easy to set up
  • only uses fuel when used, uses less fuel than POS
  • Security issues fixed (yay)
  • Finding things trivial
  • Designed for individual/ninja operations, so even the smallest corps can have a presence in space
  • Small gangs (or individuals) can harass enemy installations

Benefits (CCP):

  • Helps all wormhole residents, who are a bit rage-y about the current situation
  • Easy to implement (reuse existing artwork for now, couple of dialogues, doesn’t touch POS code)
  • First step towards a complete POS rewrite
  • Provides another reason to leave NPC corps (->more interaction->more subs)
  • Provides individual ownership of space (->more engagement->more conflict)
  • Eases the burden on POS managers (“enablers” in CCP speak)
  • Provides opportunities for small-scale “instigators” to go out and cause some trouble without a megablob
  • Promotes actually defending your space
  • Moves people out of stations (->more conflict->more subs)

Update: After thinking about this some more (and discussing it with others), I’d like to make a couple of clarifications:

This isn’t intended to replace POSes, and many operations would still need a POS in addition to having several of these modules – the goal of this is simply to allow for secure(ish) personal storage. I’d imagine that most corps would still have a POS or two for cap ship/corp asset storage, but each and every member would have one of these somewhere in system.

I considered forcefields, but the devs I spoke to at the last fanfest say that the forcefield code is a steaming pile of crap, and any new system wouldn’t use it. A small forcefield wouldn’t be an issue from a design point of view, but the concept is to come up with something that is useful, pain reducing and easy to immediately implement with the minimum of work and internal political hassle.

No guns is a deliberate design choice. This isn’t meant to be clearly better than a POS; it’s an option that’s hard to find, safe from corp theft and trivial to set up and administer, but easy to attack.

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Merry Xmas

by on Dec.24, 2012, under Life

To anyone who actually reads this :-)

This year has been tough, and it looks like 2013 will be tough as well. One thing I have decided is that I’m not going to let adversity stop me from taking on more challenges… just because circumstances beyond my control aren’t great is no reason to make good use of my time.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy 2013!

Cunning

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Patrick Moore is dead :-(

by on Dec.09, 2012, under Life

Patrick Moore died earlier today. Others will far more eloquently describe this extraordinary man’s achievements, but I couldn’t let the occasion pass without comment.

His enthusiasm for astronomy and science really brought the subject alive for me as a child, and to this day I love to look up at the stars – through a telescope or with the naked eye – and get a sense of the vast majesty of the universe. Many people think of space as being a black void, but it was watching The Sky at Night that first taught me that the harder you look, the more you can see; the universe is full of beauty and wonder in every direction, and our voyages into the unknown in the last 50 years have amounted to no more than playing in puddles compared to the vastness of the ocean.

What made Patrick Moore so endearing was both his obvious love of the subject and his self-effacing nature. Despite making numerous discoveries, and producing vast quantities of scientifically useful work, he always described himself as an “amateur” astronomer. Despite his prodigious and exacting work, he had no formal training, and when talking to guests on the Sky at Night he always came across as an enthusiastic student of science rather than a stuffy academic. I will really miss hearing him get excited about some new science, novel theory, or exciting space mission or project.

The stars may shine a little brighter tonight, and I will be out there looking up!

“Until then, good night”

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The Last K162

by on Nov.28, 2012, under Computer Games

(K162 is the signature designation for a wormhole exit in EVE Online)

I’ve spent the last 18 months in EVE in wormhole space, ranging from learning the ropes with a couple of friends in very empty c2 and c1 wormholes, to massive fleet fights in c6 and c5 space as part of (for a time) one of the largest alliances in wormholes. I’ve seen the rise and fall of an alliance, and grown from a fairly inexperienced PvPer into a confident FC. I’ve learned a fantastic amount thanks to some great people, captained an Alliance Tournament team, made – and lost! – a lot of ISK, but now it’s time for a change.

I’ve just scanned my way out of wormhole space for the last time…well, at least for a while.

I still think that wspace is the best part of EVE, at least that I’ve experienced. There’s nothing like it for encouraging small fleet fights, and you won’t see as wide a range of tactics and metas anywhere else. Unfortunately, along with the high risk and high reward of wspace goes high commitment. There is a lot of scanning, chain collapsing (rolling) static wormholes, and waiting for scouts to report, and if you only have a few hours a week to put in, you’re not likely to get a lot out.

I’m at a point in my life where internet spaceships are no longer serious business, and when I get a rare chance to sit down and fire up a game I want to know for sure that I’m going to have a good time, not a frustrating wait or two hours of staring at scan results or replaying the exact same PvE I’ve done a thousand times before.

So – what next? Well, my EVE subscription doesn’t run out for quite a while, so at the very least I’ll be flipping skills. I may spawn some FW / RvB alts and investigate some other areas of the game, or team up with some old friends and cause some trouble in lowsec, but I’m likely going to be keeping a low profile – and keeping from any long term commitments – until I decide if there’s still a place for fun in New Eden.

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EVE break, or EVE broken?

by on Oct.22, 2012, under Computer Games, Life

As a result of real life stuff that’s come to a head recently I’ve been forced to take a break from EVE for a few months. It’s given me a chance to more objectively review the state of the game, my interest in it, and what I get out of it.

State of the Game

In terms of first-party game content, EVE just isn’t very good. The “game” content is tired, thin and quickly becomes excruciatingly repetitive. Numerous core systems are in need of serious and urgent work. Luckily, the mechanisms and content developed by CCP are really just the framework on which the “real” game of EVE hangs – the incredibly rich and varied tapestry created by the players. The complex social web and meta game makes up the vast majority of the content of the game, and that is excellent for the most part.

Having said that, I’m happy to see that underpinning systems (crimewatch, bounties, POSes) are finally getting a major work over in the next couple of expansions, as players have been chafing against these bottlenecks for years.  Likewise, new content adds a lot of short-term variety as people learn how to best exploit it. I absolutely love the “tiericide” of Tech 1 ships, as it’s effectively removing a bunch of crappy, second rate vessels and adding in a vast swathe of new, interesting and useful ones. From my first day in EVE it has seemed stupid that some ships existed only to be overshadowed by others that were flat out better in every way, and I’m very glad that this is going to be no longer the case. It’s a very cheap way for CCP to effectively add a whole bunch of new stuff without any extra code or art assets.

More complicated efforts (such as the new Crimewatch and Bounty systems) require a bit more technical work, but should provide players with all levels of experience with something new to get their teeth into, but what I really want to see is the POS makeover slated for next summer’s expansion. This was brought up again and again at the last Fanfest, and the incoming CSM chairman has made it a high priority. Whilst we’ve certainly not heard as much from this CSM as we did from Mittens, if they can pull off this one thing properly then they will have done a good job in my opinion (see here).

My interest

I’m finding myself at a bit of a dead end as far as game progression goes. My initial goal when I first signed up was to be able to fly every (non-capital) ship in the game, and I achieved this a few months back. The way EVE skills works means that I’m barely more proficient in most of them than a character a few months old who has specialised, so I’m stuck for something to train. I’m currently rounding out my capital ship skills and super-specialising in some of the ships I really love to fly (Moros FTW), but I’m till running out of things to train that will make any measurable difference. I feel like I’ve run the whole gamut from newbie to bittervet; helped lead an alliance through difficult times into growth and prosperity, stood at the leading edge of what can be done in game, but ironically the growth of the alliance has meant that my personal contribution as a pilot has been less important. What I really want now is a bulging wallet and plenty of good fights against skilful opposition, but I don’t know if I have the time any more to put in to finding them. There’s plenty of ways to have fun that don’t require hours of suffering to get to, and I’m certain that I wouldn’t bother with EVE if it weren’t for my in-game friends and alliance mates.

What I get out of it

I’ve been playing EVE for my entire professional life, and I think it’s no coincidence that my real life and in game careers have matched up fairly closely. I started out with a small idealistic team, broke out on my own for a long period of “going it alone” before finally joining up with a larger entity and taking on more of a management and leadership role.

To be continued…?

I’ve finally got real life mostly under control (ha ha ha), so I’m planning to head back to EVE in the next couple of weeks – hopefully I’ll be coming back to fun times, pew and profit, and all thought of malaise will be banished to the depths of space.

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The Problem with POSes

by on Oct.22, 2012, under Computer Games

At its most basic, the problem with POSes boils from the perspective of a wormhole dweller boils down to trust. How many people do you trust – really trust – with all your possessions? In EVE?

I’m considered a generous and trusting guy both in real life and EVE, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who I’d trust with all my stuff. I’ve been burned before by people – even people I’d met in real life – who think it’s an acceptable “play style” to rip people off in game for personal profit. I can kind of understand spies, saboteurs and double agents – they are loyal, just not to their current corp – but I can’t imagine why anyone would play a social game in a sociopathic way… in any case, you’d be unwise to trust any more than 10 people with a good chunk of your virtual property.

In practice this means that for our moderate-sized wormhole alliance, we need a minimum of 40 POSes. The fuel alone for that would require two freighter runs per week, 40 different passwords, and well over a thousand different defensive modules to be set up. Moving our base of operations between two wormhole systems is an eyewatering logistical task; it’s no wonder alliances tend to stay in one place and put down roots.

The new POS mechanics sound like they are moving to a more “station-like” experience. This should make it a lot easier to get more people in one place, coordinate defence, ease the burden of fueling dozens of different towers, and make setting up/tearing down a temporary beachhead much less painful. Ideally, what I’d like to see from a user-perspective is something akin to a station, with normal station services rather than bizarre POS versions currently employed.  I don’t know why fuel blocks are currently so huge, other than to make life hard for people in wormholes – the only difference it would make if they were 0.05 rather than 5m3 is that killmails would be much more impressive! Hauling fuel should be a security problem, not a soul-sucking boredom problem.

Crucially, the new POS system should scale from a one-man operation to an entire alliance, but not be substantially better or worse from a defence point of view than current POSes. At the moment, attacking a system with 40 large towers is a huge grind, but very doable with a couple of capital ships until the defenders show up to make a stand. Attacking a single “mega POS” shouldn’t require 40 times as many ships as attacking a single POS, but if you’re going to give the defenders a chance to actually defend, then it should probably take 40 times as long. I don’t know how they could implement this, but I’m hopeful the CSM will be very involved with it. Two Step (of AHARM) is obviously very familiar with the situation, and he’s a pretty reasonable guy when he’s not blowing your stuff up, so hopefully he’ll have plenty of input on how to make the risks and rewards balance out for both defenders and aggressors.

A lot has been made of the purported intel value of the current POS shield mechanics, but to be honest anyone worth their salt either has their fleet hidden (cloaked / in another WH / off dscan) or has pilots stood by in POS in non-combat ships ready to switch out at the last second. There is no difference between someone logged out of EVE, waiting on comms for the order to log in, and docked up in a station waiting for the order to undock. The only thing you lose is the ability to see people log on and off that you don’t have added to your contacts, and the ability to see outside your POS before you “undock”. This latter point is also going to be an issue for POS gunners, so I imagine that there’s already a solution in the works to allow people to look outside the POS, but a facility to be “seen” by enemy scouts when you are logged on inside it would be awesome.

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Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

by on Apr.04, 2012, under Computer Games

The ongoing controversy about the ending of ME3 is hard to ignore – I’d picked up that a lot of people thought something was wrong before I got time to complete the game, so took extra time to do everything “right” on my first playthrough (completing as many side quests etc as possible). I’ve tried to keep plot spoilers out of the main text and put them in footnotes instead.

I got to the ending a couple of weeks ago, and was pretty disappointed. Not because the ending was “sad”1, but because it just didn’t seem very Mass Effect-y.

One of the things I’ve liked about the series is that it hangs together really well; the fictional science is actually pretty self-consistent, the common themes that run through the games were thoughtful, and above all you felt like your choices made a difference to the world.

The ending of the trilogy feels arbitrary, there is no choice, and (crucially) you never get to see how your actions play out2. The dialogue in the final scene didn’t ring true at all3. In every other major dialogue Shepard has the options to speak his mind, present his case, and call bullshit when the other party is just wrong. Hell, the guy talked a guy into shooting himself in the head in ME1, or called the Quarian Admiralty Board on their bullshit in ME2. But at the end of ME3, his conversation options are basically grunting during third party exposition. They have no input on the outcome, no opportunity to make his point or influence the other party. It’s just railroaded to the Final Choice Screen, where completely unexplained, “magical” options are presented as the only available choices. You pick one, and then get a cut scene and a cheesy appeal to buy DLC (not that there is any available at the moment, even if I was so inclined).

There are some pretty major plot holes in ME3’s final sequence, which have led many to hope that it isn’t the “real” ending4, and that future DLC will add a proper ending or change it so that it makes more sense. As much as I dislike the concept of DLC that fundamentally changes the ending of a game, and think that the price of a game should include a proper ending, I’d probably fork out for a better written finale that was actually in keeping with the rest of the series.

Some people (both gamers and in the press) have come out and said that this kind of “revisionism” would detract from the work, and I sort of agree: I don’t want to see anything changed per se, but rather added to. Whilst artists (and the Mass Effect 3 series certainly makes a good case for games as art) certainly have the final say on their creations5, they also have a responsibility to their fans and customers to provide a consistent standard of quality.6

I think of the current ME3 ending is like Sherlock Holmes going over Richenbach falls – everyone (the author, the readers, the characters) thought that that was it, he was gone, game over. His (eventual) return was in large part due to pressure from fans. I can only hope that Shepard awakes and we get to see a worthy conclusion to the trilogy, incorporating the decisions we’ve made, and the galaxy we’ve shaped, and the hero we’ve chosen to portray into a satisfying and epic conclusion.

WARNING: FOOTNOTES CONTAIN SPOILERS!
1: The deaths of characters in ME3 were sad whilst being totally awesome. Their heroic sacrifice was poignant; it felt “right” that they acted how they did, and it brought their stories to epic conclusions. They were handled much better than your choice on Virmire, for example.

2: Either in the final battle, or after the Colour Selection Screen. You spend the whole game gathering fleets for an epic battle-to-end-all-battles, which you never get to see play out. Compare to the fleet battle in ME1 or the Normandy vs Collector Ship battle in ME2 – they both felt like “real fights” with the possibility of loss, and you saw how your choices (save Council, ship upgrades) play out. The climactic battle of ME3 is off screen, and other than a fraction of a second of cutscene we don’t get to see how any of the work we put in to gathering allies mattered at all.

3: Shepard holds the star child in godlike awe, despite the fact that it’s spewing bullshit. Organics and sentient Synthetics can never get along? Apart from EDI and the geth, the only two non-Reaper synthetics you get to meet in the trilogy. And to stop synthetics wiping out organics, you… wipe out organics first? Cheers for that. Makes total sense!

4: The “Indoctrination Theory” has a lot going for it, and I certainly hope that it was either intended by the writers of ME3, or that they will pick it up and run with it. Personally I’m not sure if the child was a hallucination from the first time he was seen, or the “inside your mind” bit is just after the beam in London.

5: ish. I don’t think it’s cool for an artist/author to change a published work after the fact. Release a new work, or directors cut with extra content/better effects by all means, but make sure it’s consistent with whatever is already out there. I’m looking at you, Lucas.

6: Imagine if Tolkien hadn’t written the final chapters of Lord of the Rings, but had instead concluded the series with “And then Frodo dropped the ring in the lava, and there was a massive explosion. Buy my next book!”

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