Monday, 16 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 8 - The plot and the story part 1

As I have said before when you are thrust into this world you are instantly hooked. The first level on Eden Prime really sets the tone. But even before that you the first scene really sets the mood. It makes mention of the specters it shows the somewhat distrust between alien species and most importantly it shows a reaper. All of these plot points are put out in the fist 5 minutes of play. It also shows the main antagonist in the first game the Geth.

I should also point out that finding names for species and characters is actually harder than it looks. All of the names of every race and every character are very well thought out. I guess this is what happens if you hire a team of writers to think about this problem all day.

After the first mission you see everything you need to know about the plot. The mood is also set in this first mission. The time of day is dusk which is a metaphor for the entire series. It's not at night, it's not at sunrise, it's not at noon, the sun is setting. This is a brilliant nuance and it is so powerful.

In games these subtle additions really make a difference to the game. I love finding metaphors in games. All of the writers and designers put them in because they were probably trained in classical arts and I love when I spot them. Not to mention dusk gives a very erie sensation. It has to do with the low and slightly colored light.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 7 - Paragon versus Renegade part 2

The best part about these option choices is that you have control over the story. Do you want to make the noble choice or do you want to make bad-ass choice. To each his own and Mass Effect delivers this.

Let's talk about the conception and design of this mechanic. Have you ever wanted to play a game and you wanted to just kill a character right there? Or have you ever played a game and a character died and you wanted to save him? That is the main motivation behind this game mechanic.

It's a really neat idea and Bioware implemented it. It's really easy to think of this feature in your basement and say how cool it would be. It's a completely different thing to actually do it.

For all of you game designers I will tell you how the mechanics work. Basically what happens is when you make a choice in the game it adds points to the Paragon or Renegade variable. So if you make a Paragon choice and you receive a +5 for that choice, it just simply adds 5 to the Paragon variable. The code probably looks something like this.

int paragonNumber = 0

if helpHannar == true
     paragonNumber = paragonNumber + 5;

Of course that is a gross over simplification of the entire process but the basics of it are there. The cool part is unlocking menu choices. All that is happening here is that when the paragonNumber is above a certain value it will unlock a choice.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 6 - Paragon versus Renegade part 1

I love this game mechanic. You can either play as a complete bad-ass or you can play as well mannered savior. I like to think Im a good person so I play the paragon route. However, throughout the game you want to just be a jerk and play some renegade options. In Mass Effect 1 you don't really have to play one specifically like you do in Mass Effect 2 but I found that most of the options I wanted to do were actually the paragon options. 

What was really neat is that you actually got points for certain things you said to other characters. This gives the gamers an incentive to actually play one way or another. What giving points for actions really does is modify behavior. So I feel that the reason why points are awarded at all is to keep the hardcore gamers from complaining. I just want to see the story unfold in a way I want to but I know that other people might not see it that way. I think that a lot of gamers would actually complain about the "lack of experience" if no incentive was given. 

Either way, the more paragon and renegade points you have the more options it unlocks. Which is really cool because it makes you go and talk to everybody to see if you can get more points. It makes you more invested in the story and the characters. Mass Effect is a character driven game which is really awesome. This is really hard to do from a design standpoint. Character driven stories are generally harder to write than plot driven stories. Character development is hard to do in a static environment. What bioware does is actually make this in a dynamic environment which is even more impressive. 

I really want to emphasize the point that the Mass Effect series is indeed a character driven story and it is why most people actually play the game. It's really hard to do and they did an amazing job. Remember this point when we talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 5 - The dialoge wheel.

One of the most iconic parts of Mass Effect is the dialogue choices. The first time it came up I was a little confused. Wait, what is this? I have a choice? I did have a choice and it was awesome. What was even more interesting is how commander Sheppard would actually say different dialogue when you selected each dialoge choice. This was awesome. I couldn't believe that this was the game. I actually had choices as to what the character says.

Little did I know that these choices affect the game in a big way and as the series progressed. It also affects the series in a way that I could never imagine. This was really cool and I couldn't believe it. I kinda just hopped in the game and started playing around with it. Personally, that is how I learn I love just playing around with things. So after just messing around with it. I restarted the game and went for the full paragon options. I found that playing the game one way or another was a good choice.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 4 - the classes

Im used to RPGs. But when I first looked at Mass Effect I didn't know it was going to be an RPG. So I looked at all of the classes and I was actually kind of overwhelmed with choice. I was just honestly expecting to just hop in the action.

In Mass Effect 1 the classes are not as well defined as the other ones. When I went back to play it. I found that there were some differences but there was nothing major about the classes. There was weapon specialization and biotic powers but for the most part you could use the same weapons and the game play wasn't as different.

Im glad they made the classes more distinct in the later games it really added a whole other experience to the combat in the games. Now since this is Mass Effect 1, the creators can only predict so much of what will actually make the game good. So having all of the different classes and the variety was actually pretty good for a first try. It's only if you look at the game through a lens of the other games that you really start to see the difference. It makes sense that they improved the game and when you go back you are playing an inferior version of the game. It's a lot better than saying "Mass Effect 1's character classes are better than Mass Effect 2's".

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 3 - Why I chose the standard face

The first time I played the game I made my own face, I thought it was so cool that I was able to do this. I played through the game and it was a lot of fun with my own character. But on my second play through I decided to use the standard face and there were several reasons why I did this.

The first reason is that I was watching a youtube video and a trailer for the game. They both had the standard face in them. In addition the box art had the standard face. I felt that it was a better idea to use the standard face for continuity reasons not to mention the face I used was really different from the standard face. I felt that when I watched the fan made videos and the official trailers for upcoming games I want to feel that it is my Sheppard apart of that action.

Now of course this is just an opinion but I really want to feel that the upcoming content is personal. I know that this is a little contradictory to the game but it is how I feel about the face and how I want to relate to it.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 2 - The look of the character

One of the coolest features that really enjoyed is the fact that I could change the look of commander Sheppard. I was actually blown away that this could be done at all. It's actually quite difficult to do this. Not only is it hard from a technical standpoint, but from  a quality standpoint as well. First of all you have to make sure that the user can actually make their own face within the game or they can make any face they want. Changing 3D elements on the fly is actually pretty hard to do and this game does it quite well.

For those of you who are game designers and want to know how to do this I will tell you how. Basically everything is rendered within the engine and the polygons are then manipulated according to the user's input. All of the dimensions that the user inputs as well as all of the features like skin color and eye color are then stored within a variable. These variables are saved and then when the character is being played and rendered within the engine the game the face is then rendered according to the variables.

It's a really cool feature especially when the face carries over 3 games. I had no idea that this was going to happen but when I imported my character's face into Mass Effect 2 I was thrilled that they did this. Again, all they did was just import the variables. Now when I say "just import" I know that some people are going to think that this can be done in somebody's basement on a Saturday afternoon. In reality it's probably at least 100 variables that have to be checked. The QA is the hardest part of the process.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 1

When Mass Effect 1 came out, I honestly didn't play as many games as I do today. I was just finishing up college and I had a construction job to help pay for a move across the country. One of my friends on that job picked up the game because he needed something to do because his girlfriend had moved to back to their college town a couple weeks before he went.

Suffice to say I heard a lot of about this game and I picked it up later. I was actually quite amazed on how I instantly liked the game within 20 minutes of playing it. I think it was the first mission on Eden Prime that sucked me in. Everything was set up so perfectly for me to be enticed into the world. Everything was just so well done in the first level that I wanted to play it more.

What was even cooler is that I could pick which kind of class I wanted to be. Now I liked RPGs growing up and I especially liked action RPGs so playing a modern action RPG like Mass Effect was really awesome. I usually pick the class with the sniper rifle. I enjoy the mechanics of lining up a shot and firing.   After playing the first level I was hooked!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Mass effect series extended review

One of my favorite games is Mass Effect 2 and the Mass Effect franchise is my favorite franchise. I was eagerly awaiting Mass Effect 3 and thoroughly enjoyed the game. In the last few weeks I have played all 3 games from start to finish again just to see how the whole game works and to comment on it as a whole.

The game series is very well done and I enjoyed playing the games. I want to review all 3 games as if they were one game kinda like reviewing the Lord of the Rings trilogy as work in its entirety. Of course I will talk about the technical challenges, the great design moments in the game and everything else that comes to my mind. I will also adress the ending, my opinion on it and an analysis of the backlash. So over the next few days wait for a blog post on a specific part of the Mass Effect franchise.