ME3: What’s Really Going On?

(Warning: Spoilers ahead)Allow me to begin by saying that I didn’t get into the Mass Effect series until the summer of ’11, and began with the second one (Wal-Mart for $20? Couldn’t resist). However, playing five missions in, I realized I was missing a lot of info with the whole Saren and the Geth deal. Found the first one, beat that, beat the second one, and recently beat the third one (80% Paragon).

So what does this have to do with the game itself?

For a moment, let’s focus on why the interwebs says that the ending sucks. From what I can gather, it all starts at the point where The Crucible and The Citadel combine, and the expected “Destroy-All-Reapers” EMP/beam doesn’t fire. Meanwhile, everyone within a light year is getting mauled and vaporized by a race of sentient machines (Skynet, anyone?). You’re told by Admiral Hackett that “It must be something from your end,” possibly meaning you push a button or something. Well, at this point, your armor you spent so much time collecting is gone, your good buddy Anderson (Who you’ve known since ME1) just died next to you believing we saved everyone (Jorge, Halo: Reach), and you can barely even stand. When you reach the control panel fifteen feet away, you’re lifted up into another room.

Okay, doesn’t sound that bad, but this is where the internet flares. Upon reaching what appears to be an observation room, you’re greeted by a ghost of a child. This is the same child you saw get obliterated by a Reaper as his escape shuttle had just taken off early in the game, which spawns several dream sequences with cryptic meanings. You’re told that this whole thing was about synthetics, that every civilization eventually creates them, and eventually they rebel (Skynet again?). You’re also told that you are the first one to get this far (Lie! Illusive Man got there earlier), and that the Reapers no longer are capable in keeping people from getting this far. I only got two choices (third unlocked via multiplayer, apparently), either do what you came here to do and destroy the Reapers and all other synthetics as well as yourself in the process, or gain control of the Reapers (as the Illusive Man suggested several times) and never come back. 

So, where’s the rage? First off, we got an immortal God-Child who controls a 50,000 year cycle of galaxy-wide genocide. If the writers had left him as a PTSD element, things would have been fine. However, this plot twist was insane in its delivery, and I don’t think players were entirely ready for it. I sure as hell didn’t see it coming, nor did a whole lot of sense come out of it, but I accepted it anyway. Some things are best left unexplained.

In addition to that, most players (like myself) devoted many hours to the other two games believing that all our side-questing and carefully laid plot pieces would pay off in a seemingly unique way. Well, when you get to the end and you have one final decision that trumps all previous ones, you feel cheated out of your spent time, like it all didn’t matter.

Well, let’s hark back to the days of the previous titles, specifically the first time playing it. I remember firing from the hip on conversations, doing what I thought was necessary or right. I made Zaheed let his twenty year grudge get away in the name of the innocent, gave the Council the finger for being blind to Saren, promoted Anderson to Council (Udina retakes his spot in ME3), let the Rachni Queen go, let Wrex live in our discussion, let Alenko die a hero’s death, and helped every one of my teammates with their daddy issues. Guess what? I’m proud of those decisions and don’t regret them any.

But the fact is, players expected a short order payoff for EVERYTHING they did. When that man on the Citadel in ME1 asked about his wife’s body being brought back for proper burial instead of staying for research, the only payoff that got was a message sent to your inbox in ME2. Low risk, little time spent, low reward. Did we ever hear from him again? No. Did we expect to? Not really.

Bigger decisions came back often to haunt or reward you, like letting the Rachni Queen go. Letting Alenko die instead of Williams led me to think about what I was missing in terms of conversation. Saying “goodbye and thanks for the fish” to the Illusive Man seems to have come back to bite me in the ass. Everything had its closure, everyone had their fates. Chances are, you don’t remember half the side quests you did. Those that mattered were remembered.

My point is this. As players we need to realize that there’s a message being delivered. That message may be a reminder of how fragile our existence is, how much our personal decisions matter, and what is really important in the infinite scope of the universe. We’re given sentience either through evolution, divine intervention, or some other theory. What we do with that sentience is up to us, whether we decide to help or harm each other. As it is, the farthest we’ve ever gone ourselves is our own satellite, the moon, and we’ve only observed the distant celestial bodies, even the ones a few million miles away.

Aside from the message, we need to look at other reasons. Many questions were left unanswered at the end of ME3. Unanswered questions are used as cliffhangers, usually in lieu of suspected continuances. When you finished ME1 and 2, most of the issues got closure, but you were still left with this massive gut feeling at the end, wondering what was going to happen next. This kept you wanting to play the next title, and the next one after that. The Halo series did a great job with self-contained stories about a whole journey with cliffhangers to keep us on our feet. The Baldur’s Gate series has a habit of giving you something more to chew on after you’re all done. Mass Effect did the same exact thing but in a different flavor.

So why is that important? Well, if you haven’t caught my drift yet, it either means you haven’t been paying attention or did a TL;DR. Point is, these cliffhangers might mean an ME4, continuing the story in a much different perspective with new faces and new light on what we’re stuck scratching our heads about. Why is there a God-Child in the game? How did he get to where he was? Is he part of something much bigger?

Attempting to write a story for everyone to enjoy is hard. During the interviews with the game developers, it was said that females of some species as well as what a Quarian looks like behind the mask was never put into the game because they knew that somebody was going to be disappointed and flip a lid. Sometimes it’s best to leave that to the fandom to think about.

 

In closing, it comes down to this: Take a closer look before you rage. Over analyze if you have to (Bronies are, by nature, prone to this). You’ll be surprised at what lies inside.

 

It seemed like a good idea… (If games worked like real life)

I’ve been playing RuneScape for a little more than six years now. For those who live under a boulder in Ghastly Gorge, RuneScape is a web browser MMORPG run in Java, and has claimed the title of largest free MMORPG a few years back, but the game itself dates back to the early 2000′s. Anywho, in its vast array of things to do, there are currently 25 skills that players may advance, which range from basic combat to cooking to building your own home, and even running through dungeons Diablo style (is that even worth being called a skill?).

One of the skills in the game is called Prayer, and as the name implies, it involves prayers to deities (choice is irrelevant and goes into RP). Prayers generally temporarily boost your stats or give you bonuses like regeneration and immunities. Higher levels grant better prayers, as well as increased duration of lower prayers. The most common way to train this skill is in the burying of bones in a relatively shallow grave–a few inches underneath your feet. Since there are thirty players (out of over a million, if not more) with the cap of 200 million xp, and basic bones give 4.5 xp, doing the math on that alone should reveal that there’s just way too many bones buried underneath every step you take.

I imagine the following scenario…

A gardener begins her day by digging a three inch hole for her new plants. She hits something underneath the soil, thinking it may be just a rock.  Another stab in the ground hits more and more things, until finally a bone is unearthed. More digging and the eventual ruin of her garden reveals an awful truth: her precious flower garden is the lid to an enormous mass grave. Thousands upon thousands of bones are recovered, and now the hole is a few feet down. There’s still more bones, and the clock hasn’t even struck noon. Preliminary reports suggest wounds of all sorts, and some sets are mysteriously charred. Attending guards are baffled at the situation before them… until they’re stabbed in the back by passing adventurers. The adventurers rip the bones out of the guard’s corpse, remove him of his worth, and throw the bones into the open mass grave a few feet out. Fireworks go off above one of the adventurers’ head, to his excitement and his friend’s congratulations. The adventurers walk off without feeling so much as a single ounce of remorse as they proceed to spend their ill-earned coin on debauchery at the local tavern. A minute later, a rookie is put in the late guard’s place. Two seconds later, the same ill fate befalls the rookie as did his predecessor. The cycle continues infinitely, and the mass grave grows deeper by the kill.

No wonder the woman’s petunias kept growing like that.

So is it possible that nobody’s thought of that yet? Decomposition would take years. The landscape would change dramatically. As grim as it sounds, every city in the game would have been built on a mountain of their own dead, regardless of alignment.

In perspective, all of our cities are built the same way. Millions of things have died thousands of years ago, and every time we set a shovel in the ground, we disturb something’s final resting place. In addition, who knows what strange secrets lie under a city like New York, NY? I’m talking about below the sewers, below anywhere we’ve ever gone. The discoveries could mean the difference between our reality and the one we’ve seen only in science fiction.

Just food for thought.

The Christmas of Hypocrites (And How to Avoid Being One)

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Every year it’s the same shindig: Eve comes around, you make your resolutions, and by the end of the following week, you’re back to whatever the hell it is you did last year. Many addicts return to habit by the fourteenth of the first month, avid procrastinators put it off until next year a week later, and those willing to change their outlook on life get a reminder on why their life sucks at 5:47 AM on the third Monday of February. Fifty two weeks later, the cycle repeats.

It’s possible that the next thought through your head is, “True, but what about those who actually succeeded in their resolutions?” (Or some troll variation written by an angsty twelve year old, your pick.)

I’m not saying that everyone who puts up a resolution or two won’t see it through, because that’s simply not true. I’ve known people who have made their resolutions a reality, and it’s something inspiring to those around them. These people show self initiative and perseverance, both qualities that can be hard to come by these days. Kudos to them, congratulations, well done.

But this is the time that everyone I know makes some sort of resolution that they screw themselves with. We all know smokers who say that it’s bad for us, but they continue to smoke anyway. Then they make the “I’m going to quit by the end of the week” resolution and are back to it by the fourteenth. Same goes for the alcoholics. They’re back at the bar by week three, looking to drown whatever stupid misery they found themselves in with bourbon and scotch as a coping mechanism. Seriously? Attend a meeting, watch some ponies, or chew some gum. It will do you some good.

The idea is to try and be realistic about it. Set goals and work hard towards them, just like those awkward office pep meetings tell you to.

Take for instance, a man whose mass equals half of that of a ’95 midsize sedan, BMI is an over 9000 joke that makes Vegeta roll in his grave, and is moved by a wheelchair with a V8 engine. Let’s face it, what happened to him that drove him to this point doesn’t matter. That isn’t healthy by any standards. This year that man makes a resolution to lose enough weight to do free running like he sees in the YouTube videos. He orders an $800 treadmill and $3000 worth of other equipment online and it arrives two weeks later.

Look, a car of that size probably weighs in anywhere between 1000-1200kg easy. Run the numbers, he’s 500-600kg, over a thousand pounds (for exaggeration purposes). First off, anyone that big should be surprised they’re breathing at all under all of that. Second, those free runners probably weigh in at 70-90kg and likely take years of training. Is this starting to look stupid already? Let me answer that for you: Yes, it is. Why? Simple: Unrealistic. 800lbs in twelve months is insanely unhealthy weight loss.

I don’t have much room to talk, though. I now have a hard time fitting back into my size 38 pants after these holidays, and I was simply too close to fitting into size 36s. But unlike my fictional counterpart, I have a simple steps to undo my mistakes. Yeah, I’m making a resolution, but I’ve been down this stretch before. I know what needs to be done.

So before you go and make that mega resolution with an unrealistic deadline, consider trimming it down to something more manageable, perhaps shrinking the goal or cutting it up into milestones. If you’re 250 lbs and going for 200, try losing 10 lbs over two weeks and keep it off for another two. Walk thirty minutes a day for three days a week. Eat less bad food. It seems slow, but it may be enough for your body to adjust to the new weight. Keep going until you reached your goal, and then if you’re still feeling productive, run another milestone. By August, you will be able to enjoy your new physique.

For best results, consult your doctor, who knows you better than I do. This is just based on my experience.

In my opinion, this stuff is stupidly simple. So simple in fact, that too many books have been written on the subject. They all boil down to the same thing: goals, perseverance, focus. It’s a surprise many people don’t follow this.

So go ahead, enjoy New Year’s Eve. Drink that last bit of champagne, watch the ball drop, celebrate. You’ve got work to do in the morning.

First Order of Business

All right. So, from what I know about blogs (and it may not be much),  a lot of opinions get thrown around. Well, I figure I’d do the same. First order of business: figure out what to do with this blog.

I’m going to put up reviews on the latest My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episodes, and place my thoughts on the previous ones as well, using what I remember for reactions when I first watched them.

Since the show has actually accumulated such a huge fan base, it’s impossible to sort through them without finding a number of talented members, many of which hold YouTube or Deviant Art accounts and several works of their own. I’m thinking about reviewing some of those as well.

In addition to the Ponies, I’ll throw in an opinion on newly released games, comics that I come across, and other pieces on life. Maybe I could upload a few of my own things too, if I ever get around to them.

So it’s settled. Let it begin.

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