Keyboard Geniuses

Mass Effect 3: Citadel

Critical Mass Effect

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • March 22, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

It’s Massively Effective!

Drew Toal found emotional closure in Citadel, the third and final expansion to the much ballyhooed space shooter/space friendship simulator Mass Effect 3. The trilogy’s controversial ending left many players unhappy, so Marquis Moon was wary of this new addition to the story:

If you had a friend who did something really shitty to you and broke your heart, and you hadn’t talked to them since then, and then they showed up at a party you were at and acted like everything you said was really impressive and laughed too much at your jokes, that’s how I imagine playing this would feel.

GaryX shared his thoughts on Mass Effect 2’s interesting approach to episodic storytelling:

I’m really intrigued by the lower stakes of the thing. On the [Giant Bomb podcast] recently, they were talking about wanting games that had something akin to more “TV stakes,” and I can’t help but feel that’d be really refreshing. Less “chosen one saves the world” bullshit, and more smaller, intimate threats that allow us to explore and hang out with characters. In some ways, this is similar to The Walking Dead [game’s] stakes. (My favorite episode, the second, was pretty cliché, but the way it went about those beats and used the characters to deal with them were great.) If the next [Mass Effect] game were just a game of doing shit day in and day out, maybe tied to some overall story, I’d play the shit out of it. Won’t ever happen, though.

Fluka agreed:

“TV stakes” is exactly what makes Mass Effect 2 so great. The main story is kinda pointless, so it’s a game consisting of more intimate loyalty and recruitment mission “episodes.” It’s a great character ensemble about a team working together, instead of Giant Important Battles.

God Of Quick Time
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Making his first proper appearance on The Digest, Anthony John Agnello joined John Teti for another edition of our monthly gabfest to discuss Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. While John didn’t like its boss battles’ usage of “press X button” prompts (known as “quick time events” in the trade). Enkidum remembered a rare boss fight that integrated this type of moment well:

I’m trying to think of big set pieces in games that do actually require real input from the player. One that comes up for me, weirdly, is God Of War. I know that it’s one of the worst offenders for quick time events, and essentially every boss fight has them. But if you think about something like the initial battle with the hydra, or the fight with the giant minotaur robot, though both have quick time events in them, they are part of a larger, quite difficult, set of actions that you have to do. And you have to figure out these actions on the fly—I remember how cool it felt when I realized that it wasn’t enough to simply beat up the hydra’s heads, you had to pin them down. This wasn’t telegraphed (or maybe I’m just too stupid to see the telegraphing), and so there was a process of discovery.

A Bit.Trip To Remember

Bit.Trip Runner 2

In the second edition of The Digest, John Teti was joined by Drew Toal to talk about Bit.Trip Runner 2, a game with a sharp sense of rhythm. While John and Drew praised Runner 2 for its immersive qualities, Uselessyss suggested a different perspective:

Essentially, the Runner games consist of the player hitting very specific buttons in a specific order to a specific rhythm. You could argue that it’s one big quick time event, except instead of explicit button prompts (“press X”) there’s a layer of context between the button-pressing and what you see on-screen (”I see a gap, that means I have to jump now”). I wonder what makes the latter so much more satisfying than the former?

Farther down, Steve McCoy responded to John’s argument that Metal Gear Rising sidelines the player at the climax of the action:

Interesting that you think of the quick time events as the climax. To me, the finishing quick time event as done in Metal Gear Rising is a form of falling action or denouement, with the “actual” boss fight acting as a climax. They’re a way to release all of the tension of the fight—especially the majority of finishers that let you go wild in blade mode.

WagNERDS

This week, like so many weeks before it, saw the release of various games. For your benefit, Drew Toal rounded up a few of those releases in Out This Week. After making a reference to Richard Wagner in the comments, Spacemonkey Mafia explained why the composer pops into our discussions so often:

He was one of the 19th century’s most enduring creators of popular opera, codified a lot of the mythology and fantasy tropes that are still present in our video games, bears the self-serious Teutonic bombast that’s always fun to poke fun at and he was successfully assimilated into one of the best Looney Tunes cartoons of all time. Frankly, I’m surprised we don’t talk about him more.

Fight Clubbers
Fight Club

Breaking the first rule of video game Fight Club—“Don’t talk about video game Fight Club, because it is awful”—Steve Heisler ventured into the lackluster game adaptation of Fight Club. As Steve observed, the heady movie was transformed into a simple, uninteresting brawler. Since Fight Club was originally a novel written by Chuck Palahniuk, Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle imagined other ill-informed video game adaptations of Palahniuk’s works:

This Fight Club game was always going to suck, and there are other Chuck Palahniuk books that could be made into games that equally miss the point.

Choke: You are Victor, the backbone of colonial America, and you must have soulless sex with as many similarly sex-addicted women as possible until you gain enough points to finish the fourth step. I would suggest Kinect compatibility, if only for the milkmaid sequence. The “choke in restaurants” mini game helps you gain additional points, as does the “feed your deranged mother chocolate pudding” quick time event. But don’t touch Eva’s woo woo or it’s game over!

Invisible Monsters: I see this as a Mass Effect 2 “assemble the team”-type adventure game, except the Shepard character is horribly disfigured and your squadmates are all drag queens.

Rant: A demolition derby game where you are a dude with rabies “party crashing” in moonlit streets. Oh they made that and called it Twisted Metal? Never mind, then.

Damned: A 13-year-old girl causes problems in hell. Oh, they made this one as well and called it Dante’s Inferno and recast the 13-year-old-girl as a guy with a cross stitched into his chest? Never mind, then.

Pygmy: A Double Dragon-style beat-’em-up. The twist? Your character is three feet tall.

Trope-ical Design
Riven

Riven

In this week’s Q&A, we dove into our favorite types of missions and game design techniques. And we opened the floor to you all. Citric enjoys games that give you ample room to breathe:

I like what I’ll call “the pause” the most. Areas with no threats, no enemies, just maybe a story sequence and a couple people to talk to—those empty areas often right before or after an arduous section of the game. They give you a moment to collect your thoughts, prepare for what’s happening next, and get your bearings. It’s great just because when something is the least bit challenging, it’s nice to have an in-game break so you don’t go insane.

And Samplays is a fan of good old fashioned sneaky-sneaking:

Stealth is my favorite trope/cliché in video games, but only a handful have done it well for me. I was a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid series—storytelling aside—because stealth required a bit of skill. The games often allowed you to completely avoid conflicts, but you had to work a little bit to accomplish that goal. Games like Metal Gear Solid, Hitman, and even Splinter Cell often try to have it both ways where you can be stealthy or you can play it as an action title. Deus Ex: Human Revolution stands out for me because the environments, upgrade system, and rewards seemed heavily weighted in favor of those who like to crawl through duct systems and peek around corners. It was designed specifically for stealth players.

Diet Doctor Thunder Force IV
Thunder Force IV

Derrick Sanskrit gave us another Game That Tune, this time covering the music of Thunder Force IV. Chalkdust kicked in a few tracks from another classic shooting game, Einhänder :

Love these densely ornamented 16-bit era tracks. I dabbled with sequenced music a bit back in junior/high school, and I couldn’t help but write in this style, so ingrained in my mind that it is.

On the subject of side-scrolling sci-fi shooter games, I’d like to toss in for Kenichiro Fukui’s fantastic Einhänder score. It has stuck with me over the years in a way few other soundtracks have. A few of my favorites: Madness, Factory, and Thermosphere.

It’s all great, but those are good places to start. PlayStation-era Squaresoft was a golden age for game music, during which many of the in-house composers produced, in my opinion, their definitive works.

Gameological Gallery

We’re always humbled when Effigy Power sends in a toonified take on the month’s Digest. She certainly impressed us this time with a baadasssss rendition of Anthony John Agnello and John Teti that references John’s now-legendary podcast malapropism:

Stud & Fiend

And Girard mocked up a certain Gameological editor as a much-bootlegged comic strip character:

Calvin Teti

Well, that’s it folks! Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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55 Responses to “Critical Mass Effect”

  1. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

       In other trailer awesomeness, the most August NES Duck Tales game is getting the remastered treatment.  Which is pretty brilliant, frankly.  I wish they had gone with a hand-painted, cel-shaded background, instead of the 2.5D style -but that’s picking nits.  If done well, this will be fantastic.
       Onto Friday Open Question!  I recall renting Ultima for the NES and finding it a near-impossible tangle of poorly explained ideas and poorly implemented design.  Leveling was unintuitive, encounters were indiscriminately scaled and the technical limitations of the game were such that the map couldn’t even display all the tiles at once, resulting in an annoying strobe effect when walking.  Granted, even at it’s best, it probably wouldn’t be an awesome game, but still, it was more than the NES could handle.
       So what game have you played that, either from a technical standpoint or from a game design standpoint, you felt would have benefited from release on the next generation of systems?

    • Bakken Hood says:

      Funny you should ask.  Ctrl+V’d with minor edits from my comment in the Q&A article in a thread about playing as God:

      ActRaiser is one of the few shreds of evidence that more powerful systems might be inherently better than their predecessors. It had some ideas that just couldn’t be realized in 16 bits. A modern-day reboot, one that gets deeper into the nitty-gritty of godhood and the thorny morality of leadership, could really make good on the original’s potential. Benevolent loving deity or smite-happy Old Testament God, diplomat or warlord, love your whole flock or favor the strongest…especially if these choices spill over into the hack ‘n’ slash aspects by altering your subjects’ ability to defend themselves, creating high-value targets that have to be defended, or (as in the original) linking the player’s combat stats to the state of civilization.

      When I revisited the original a few years back, my jaw dropped during the ending when the Angel made a comment about how you know you’re a good deity when your people forget that they need you. That went right the fuck over my younger head. If the gameplay makes the same point (see also: the closing line of Futurama S4E8, Godfellas), that’s an instant classic.

      • Andy Tuttle says:

        If they remade it today then the game would have always-on DRM and require you to siphon off prayers from your neighbor in order to stay alive.

    • You have no idea how stupidly excited I was when I saw that remastered trailer, especially since some sources mentioned ORIGINAL DISNEY VOICES. I’m splooshing here, Archer-style.

      That being said, I’m not THRILLLED with the Flash-y graphics, and Scrooge’s head looks a bit too big for his body, but it’s still a stunner, and this means a Moon-level remastered theme, which is, in itself, worth any price.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

         the moon theme is the thing that I am most anxious about.  Is there any word on how true they are staying to the original music?

    • There were lots of scaled-down ports on the NES. Some of them retained the charm of the original, or even surpassed it, while others just felt like a terrible mistake.

      But I’m going to say: just about every PS1 action game that came out before the dual shock. It’s really hard to go back and play “Twisted Metal 2”, for example, withour analog control.  

      • caspiancomic says:

         That’s a really good answer, a lot of my favourite PS1 games seem borderline unplayable today.

        • PaganPoet says:

          I’m genuinely surprised at how badly PS1-era games aged. Those early 3D games are fug…compared to the lush, colorful sprites possible on the SNES which still look good today.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Most 3D games on the Sega Saturn looked like stepped-on shit, but man that thing could rock 2D! The Street Fighter games looked particularly spectacular on it, as compared to their PS1 ports.

        • Girard says:

          PSX/N64 games haven’t aged badly, I’d say – they were pretty butt-ugly upon release, and their graphical limitations were pretty evident in when compared to the gorgeous late-period SNES stuff we were leaving behind.

          That said, there were some lovely 2-D graphics in that generation, and the PSX used its extra texture memory and FMVs to help compensate for its blocky low-poly models, which sometimes worked okay. And more stylized games like the MegaMan Legends series (more or less the Windwaker of the PSX gen) looked pretty sharp.

        • beema says:

          I’m with @paraclete_pizza:disqus . That era of 3D games were fucking terrible when they released. It was the start (or continuation) of many a good franchise, and there were some quality games, but even without hindsight, it felt like they were jumping in to the technology prematurely just to try and one-up everyone. I didn’t buy any consoles in that era, and going back and playing games even one generation later was intolerable  I have no idea why anyone has nostalgia for that era of games. They are ugly as shit and they all control like complete ass. I mean seriously, Goldeneye, you had separate control inputs for up-down, left-right, AND back forward? Aiming is like operating a fucking crane. 

        • Girard says:

          @twitter-259492037:disqus : I’ve said it around these parts before, but that generation sort of felt to me like they’d decided to make EVERY game a “Super FX” from the SNES days.
          Super FX games were cool, and their real 3D afforded some new gameplay possibilities, but it was also pretty clear that they were heavily compromised graphically in order to do that. To suddenly have that compromise be the norm, and not a fringe curiosity, was kind of jarring, especially when it meant that cherished properties like Zelda were subjected to smeary, blocky, clunky ugliness.

        • @paraclete_pizza:disqus @twitter-259492037:disqus : I think it’s a shame that we don’t have more remakes of games from that era. 

    • George_Liquor says:

      I’m gonna say Ocarina of Time for 3DS. The 3D gimmick adds nothing, but the touch screen makes navigating OoT’s inventory & menu screens much simpler. It also fixes the N64 version’s blurry, low-resolution textures and its muffled audio.

    • Chalkdust says:

       I dunno about the tech level question, but it does remind me that one of my all-time favorite games on NES remains remarkably unique, and I’d love to see a new version or at least a re-release.

      I speak, of course, of Mendel Palace, an action-y top-down game where you are placed in a room full of enemies.  To defeat them, you flip the floor tiles over, sending them sliding into walls and exploding into bits.  Flipping some tiles also reveals a hidden star tile, all of which you must collect in order to advance.

      It’s divided into zones (eight I believe), with each zone introducing a new kind of enemy.  I can’t think of anything else quite like it.

      Oh hey a commercial!

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      Remember Castle Master? That’s like 3 or 4 generations too early.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       you’ve made my summer.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      Origin Systems Incorporated had an awful habit of pushing the limits of the PC way beyond what was commonly available at the time.  Among its more notorious over-reaches . . .

      Wing Commander 2 – it took over 2 hours to install, from over 15 floppies.  This became common in the industry in the next few years, but it was a massive shock at the time, when game installs were more commonly in the 10 minute range.

      Ultima VIII – due to the aforementioned floppy disk install problem, they had to cut character portraits, chunks of the game world, and numerous NPC’s to make it the disks fit in the box.  I remember finding numerous ordinary people walking around who had no programmed dialog – they were like zombies.  It was odd and broken.

      Ultima IX was, in fact, broken.  They tried to make Oblivion in 2001.  Bad idea.

      Thinking more along the lines of game mechanics, there was an RPG I played that used the Pool of Radiance engine, called Buck Rogers in the 25th century.  It was ahead of its time in many ways, most notably for its interesting trans-humanist corporate dystopian setting.  That game tried to incorporate things like skill checks and dialog, but it was seriously hampered by the engine, which was designed for hard-core dungeon crawlers.  That game and its sequel would have been absolutely fascinating using something like the technology and engine behind Fallout.

    • Andy Tuttle says:

      When I was a little kid we got a free issue of Nintendo Power in the mail and it was the issue all about Duck Tales. I remember looking at the level map, remember those, they would just take screen shots of the entire level and lay it out as a giant run-on picture. So I’m looking at this huge map and daydreaming about the world, and I go out into the garden of this apartment complex we lived in and I start playing the game right there in my head and pretending that the different bushes and flowers were the actual game. I must have looked at those maps everyday for hours just wondering what it would be like to be there. I think its moments like this from my childhood that led to me being enamored with games like Skyrim, Fallout and GTA. I just want a big space to play pretend in.

  2. Merve says:

    Oh Soupy, why have you forsaken me? *makes ritual sacrifice*

    Don’t make me start writing GS fanfiction…

    • PaganPoet says:

      I, too, seem to have been spurned by that rascally feline. Though with a measly 4 studs on my jacket, I must wonder if I ever had his affection at all. Cats are such fickle beasts!

  3. Ryan Smith says:

    Someone needs to dramatize the hilarity of Drew Toal playing Gears of War online with me this week. Quotes included: “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a party” and “Oh, I don’t have a microphone.” It was sort of like trying to play Xbox with a sort of cool dad. I say that with the utmost affection. Also, we both struggled to protect the ‘E-Hole’ in Gears–which is a real thing.

  4. George_Liquor says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve heard rumors that future games set in the ME universe will likely have lower stakes than the destruction of all life in the Milky Way.

  5. stakkalee says:

    So here we are, at the end of another week.  The most-commented article was the Q&A on our favorite tropes with 385 comments, which more than doubled the next highest comment thread, the WAYPTW article (which only had 139 comments this week!  We’re slipping!)  And now, on to the Top 5 Most-Liked Comments!
    1) With 19 likes, @MattmanBegins:disqus says something once.
    2) Everyone’s favorite gestalt entity, @Gameological_Society_Commenter:disqus gets 17 likes for defending his turf.
    3) With 16 likes, @CaspianComic:disqus talks about his happening pad!
    3) And tied for third, @MikeMariano:disqus lets us know it must be Tuesday.
    5) With 14 likes, Unexpected Dave (@twitter-493417375:disqus) rides the red Yoshi.
    5) And tied for fifth, @Merve2:disqus talks about getting it up.
    Plus, a special shout-out to @JohnTeti:disqus, who got 29 likes for his Grumpy Cat impersonation!  And now for the plaid jackets!  We have 5 new members to induct today, so everyone give it up for @Marquis_Moon:disqus, @Uselessyss:disqus, @NakedManHoldingAFudgesicle:disqus, @SamPlays:disqus and @Chalkdust:disqus!  Welcome aboard!  Revel in the affection, because Soupy is a fickle master!
    And now for our returning members.  For being selected a second time, @GaryX:disqus and Steve McCoy (@google-90d5e9493979cd5a5bdf16217ab42a7b:disqus) are each getting their first stud!  @Enkidum:disqus gets a fifth stud, @Fluka:disqus gets a sixth, and @Citric:disqus gets a seventh!  And the battle at the top continues – @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus is still in fourth place with 18 studs, one stud behind @CaspianComic:disqus.  And the heavyweights, @Effigy_Power:disqus and @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus, continue their rivalry with 21 and 22 studs, respectively!  Oh Soupy, must you torment them so?!
    And for the linkdump, are there any game designers out there interested in competing for $15K?  Because Friskies is sponsoring a Games For Cats Hackathon!  So if you think you know what cats like, you’re probably wrong, but it couldn’t hurt to try!  Until next week, enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • Chum Joely says:

      Girard, can’t you just be Girard on here instead of Paraclete Pizza?

      • Fluka says:

        NOPE.

      • Girard says:

        I have no idea how the hell Disqus works. For a while I was Girard everywhere, then once it showed my real name, and in trying to fix that, I ended up with my Steam name, but only when I’m being addressed in a comment, not on my actual posts. I’m not sure if that’s related to my no longer getting notifications when I’m addressed (only when I’m directly replied to), either.

        Basically, Disqus is a cluster fuck.

        • stakkalee says:

          I remember you went through 3 or 4 different Disqus usernames in the span of a month or two.  Disqus is such a weird system, but I haven’t really seen any comment system that doesn’t have worse problems; I’m just glad we have Classic Disqus back, at least for now.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Well, it’s good to know I actually have two skills. Makes me feel fulfilled.
        Also, nice work, @paraclete_pizza:disqus, but tread lightly on my turf. ^_^

    • Fluka says:

      Woohoo!  Back in Soupy’s graces!

      Speaking of cats, *raises hand.*  I have an important question!  The Games for Cats Hackathon.  Would this involve hanging out with actual cats?  Also, that page helpfully answers my other big question, which is “Why the hell are you letting your cat get its claws anywhere near the surface of your iPad?”

      • PaganPoet says:

        You obviously laced Soupy’s waterbowl with catnip. Treachery afoot!

      • stakkalee says:

        I love the counter at the top of that page, “You vs. Cat Worldwide Leaderboard” with no accompanying link or explanation.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I let my cat use my Android tablet ONCE and he basically plopped his fat ass on top of it.
        From now on only games for animals that weigh less than the human hand or something.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

      There’s a lesson to be learned here kids – threatening people with a fudgesicle gets results.

      @stakkalee:disqus , can I please have my plaid jacket in ‘translucent’?

      • stakkalee says:

        Best I can do is a sheer tartan blouse, but if anyone can make it work it’s you.  We could probably sew a pocket on the sleeve to hold your fudgesicles. 

        • Girard says:

          I love how in the image of the model modelling that shirt, she appears to be on some sort of talk show, and not really enjoying whatever it is she’s talking about.

    • Girard says:

      Thank God I drew that stupid drawing, or Eff and I would be neck and neck.

      Which would probably be a good way to get your neck wrung. Or chopped. Or broken.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Maybe, but it’s a stunning, silky and swanlike neck, so at least it’s a fun last thing to see.

  6. Steve McCoy says:

    Oh man, I missed the Calvinized Teti. That’s glorious.

    • Girard says:

      While I judiciously opted for Teti holding the water balloon, there’s certainly nothing stopping you, or anyone else with a copy of Photoshop, from doing to that image what that poor Calvin-with-a-water-balloon image was subjected to, and making an ‘edgy’ Teti decal worthy of the back window of any pickup truck.

      Possible targets for Teti’s micturation may include a copy of Assassin’s Creed III, David Cage, or whatever console/company ignites your particular fanboy ire.

  7. evanwaters says:

    Ooh, Riven. Still never quite finished that.