QUEST: Acquire Reaper IFF/A House Divided, Part 2

QUEST is a series that looks at questing. Hence the name. This time, we’re visiting the second game of the Mass Effect series. In Part 1, we nitpicked zombies, and discussed the bait-and-switch tactic of setting out to rescue individuals who end up as enemies OH NO THE HORROR! Also, as always, SPOILERS follow.

In order to accomplish their periodic cycle of mega-destruction while minimizing loss to their forces, the Reapers employ a sophisticated technical process of systematic brainwashing known as ‘Indoctrination.’ The in-game informational Codex has this to say on the topic:

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QUEST: Acquire Reaper IFF/A House Divided, Part 1

(QUEST is a series that looks at questing. Hence the name. This time, we’re visiting the second game of the Mass Effect series. I hope you like SPOILERS, because it’s what’s for dinner!)

“When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.” –When Harry Met Sally

Spoil me.

Um…wait. What the fuck is this? Roses? Are you giving me a shoulder massage? I told you I hate to be touched unless it’s naughty time! I just wanted to know how Cabin in the Woods ends! Gah! Now I need to look it up.

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A Semi-Spoiler-Filled Rant About Dark Things

SPOILERS follow about games you might care about. Or not.

“The professor asked if anyone had read Camus. I, of course, had read L’Etranger in the original French, and raised my hand. I mentioned the protagonist who doesn’t care about his mother’s death. Then I said I often washed dishes with my mom. When she’d hand me a knife to dry, I would have the fleeting thought that it would be pretty easy to kill her if I wanted. I should mention that I usually sat in the back, so when I said this about a hundred heads whipped around to stare at me. What I should have said was, “But I don’t want to kill her!” What I actually said was, “Oh, like you never thought about killing your mom.”

-Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Why do I play?

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

Does it even matter if both are pretty much the same?

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NPC: Baby Jane, the Spider Splicer

NPC examines sentient, unplayable characters that add depth, pivotal experiences or tactical challenges to games. This time, we’re looking at cosplay favorite and heartbreaking irritant “Baby Jane”, from the Bioshock series.

MAKEUP!

Game/Series: Bioshock

Level/Quest: Multiple

Name: Not given. Colloquially known as “Jane” or “Baby Jane”. Continue reading

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Metacritic Mind Games (Updated)

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I can’t fucking believe I’m actually writing about this. I can’t believe that this is a thing that needs to be written about.

This matters little to anyone who isn’t in the business of making games. But a story in Gamesradar makes note that a recent job listing for a Design Manager over at Irrational Games is requesting, under “Requirements”, that applicants have “Credit on at least one game with an 85+ Average Meta Critic Review Score.”

Let me make a rest-of-the-world analogy for you. Continue reading

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QUEST: The Cold Flame of Agnon, Part 3

QUEST is a series that looks at questing. Hence the name. This time, we’re visiting the Elder Scrolls IV expansion pack called The Shivering Isles. In Part 2, my elf and I visited a literal shithole, found a mixing bowl and mused on the poignancy of eternal conflict. As always, it’s SPOILERS a-plenty, and not the automotive kind.

These are pictures of ice cream sundaes taken in Hawaii, which is proof that heaven exists on our mortal plane.

 

The dirty little secret about choice in games is that—as long as the game is good—the choices are pretty balanced. A whole separate-but-equal mindset is the ideal when designing options, because if there’s one clear perfect choice, to select anything else just isn’t smart gameplay. And gamers don’t like to consider themselves as anything less than Degrasse-Tysoneans, at least not when it comes to basic game theory.

So while it looks like it should matter which army Labrusca fights with, and whether they win (and win they will, or Labrusca never gets to the next quest) by honor or deceit, it doesn’t. The Isles will not be fundamentally changed if either army is defeated. The great god designers, who are greater even than the Lord Sheogorath, have accounted for all choices, and the subsequent worlds such choice will create. Whether one orders chocolate or butter rum, you’re still served a dish of ice cream…except, to us, the flavor really does matter. Continue reading

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QUEST: The Cold Flame of Agnon, Part 2

QUEST is a series that looks at questing. Hence the name. This time, we’re visiting the Elder Scrolls IV expansion pack called The Shivering Isles. In Part 1, I got tanked on tequila and took my trusty elf Labrusca to explore, ending up at a blacksmith’s with a possible gender identity concern. SPOILERS HENCEFORTHWITH!

Pret-A-Porter

Where am I supposed to go? I open my map to search for the location of the fortress Haskill kindly marked for me, probably because he knew I’d never find it on my own. Ugh. Because I haven’t passed it in my earlier travels, I can’t fast-travel immediately to it right now. My elf turns a corner and finds a door guarded by a Saint. This Saint ignores her, even when she strides up to the archway and passes through. So instead of Checkpoint Charlie, I guess it’s Checkpoint Not-My-Problem-Anymore?

Because Labrusca is now, literally, in a different world.  Continue reading

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I Spoke Too Soon

Fuck yeah, electric cheetah scarf! I'm wearing this on my next trip to Elswyr!

Last week, I argued the case for a secondary gaming market to support developers and publishers during the problematic, cyclical periods of AAA development. I lamented that you couldn’t read about how to dress like Alyx Vance in magazines, removing idle-but-necessary gossip about gaming culture from global social conversation.

Yesterday, while dicking around on Metafilter, I saw this: Console To Closet.

So, that’s not exactly what I meant. Continue reading

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QUEST: The Cold Flame of Agnon, Part 1

QUEST is a series that looks at questing. Hence the name. This time, we’re visiting the Elder Scrolls IV expansion pack called The Shivering Isles.

Seducers haunt you. Only think the word, and dance with Dracula or Odile, caught in an elusive and not-quite-licit embrace. Dark Seducers sound even more alluring, more forbidden. In a world of madness, the phrase might drive you to abandon, either of ecstasy, terror, or both.

In the universe that holds the games known as the Elder Scrolls, there is a world called Nirn. On that world is a continent called Tamriel, home to over half-a-dozen different races. On the continent there is a country called Cyrodil, and in that country there’s a lake. Feeding the lake is a bay, and in the center of this bay is an island that isn’t really there at all.

So we're just gonna pop-in some happy little trees...

The Shivering Isles is not in the original game where Cyrodil is situated; the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. If you were to stand at the gates to Bravil, the ne’er-do-well town on the western shores of Niben Bay and gaze east, you could see the unbroken glass of the water’s surface clear to the rest of the Nibenay, with the Jerall Mountains almost floating in the distance. If, however, the expansion pack is installed, a violet-gray dome of an island now sits in the center: a fresh-mined amethyst resting on a tin platter. Continue reading

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The Secondary Gamer

The blustery drama surrounding the minor Twitter skirmish between Ryan Perez (now formerly of Destructoid) and Felicia Day has put the spotlight on a persistent and ugly issue concerning the gaming industry. For those of you unfamiliar with the events of the past weekend, Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds describes the issue fairly well. The short of it is, Perez called Day out on his private Twitter account for adding nothing to the industry other than being a “glorified booth babe,” then, after getting fired by Destructoid, continuing his self-destructive pissing contest by taking on other members of the gaming geek celebrity circle, and, eventually, coming to his senses and messaging that this had not resulted in the best outcome for his career.

Well and good. And while Day, who is anything but a booth babe, continues to write and produce a significant amount of gaming-related entertainment, (not least of which are her geek dramadies The Guild and DA II films for Bioware) the implication remains: outside of voicework and allowing her image to be used for in-game character modeling, Day does not add to the gaming industry—if the gaming industry is solely defined as “developing and releasing video games and gaming hardware.”

And there’s the rub. The industry itself is inherently conflicted over its need for and rise of a secondary gamer industry. Continue reading

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