Massively Effective Storytelling

So, I beat Mass Effect yesterday. I think it’s important to note that I’m someone who has to check every nook and cranny, making sure that I have every weapon and item around. This game almost fucking killed me in that respect with its shitty item menus and rules. BioWare, rap the knuckles of your GUI designer (and/or the guy who did the item design,) hard, so they’ll understand the pain of my fingers after having to delete hundreds of items. But the meat is, of course, the story and player interaction with it.

I’m NOT saying it’s a bad game! In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I thought the story they told was very well done, if reminiscent of the Fifth Element. I think many of the sidequests had wonderfully memorable characters in their motivations, mannerisms, script, and voice acting. I can only imagine the poor bastard that pulled his hair out making sure all the actors got their lines right. (He should buy some Propecia from Morlan’s famous shop! (I found his nervous confusion one of the most insanely genius bits of voice acting in the game for some reason. Probably particularly because of his race’s traits.)) But now that I’ve sucked up for a paragraph, what I AM saying is that the five points of conversation didn’t feel like they were utilized to their full extent.

Actually, there were two complaints. First is a very minor complaint, that there were some choices that I felt didn’t reflect the spirit of what the actual dialogue ended up being. It’s no big deal as, in retrospect I understood where they were going with the choice, but I wasn’t always sure what was going to be said. I would’ve liked to have seen everything I would’ve said in each reply choice.

Secondly, and most importantly, the ‘extra good’ choices (and I assume the ‘extra bad’, as I just restarted to play that tree,) only served to get free stuff or cement your opinions over others, meaning I use it every time it pops up, otherwise I choose ‘normal good’. This pretty much only makes two of the choices relevant. I chose a ‘negative’ choice, literally, less than half a dozen times (because they were too funny to pass up,) and the middle choice even less!

I’d like to see them tackle their next game differently, rather than good/bad plotlines. I’d much prefer to see them offer different character traits to coat your positive or negative responses with. I’m still imagining a system similar to what they have, but pared down to mostly either positive/negative responses with the player choosing his attitude in the delivery. Give the player the ability to say things stoically, comically, menacingly, politely, or earnestly (between the prior two.) It’d even be mappable to the same wheel they used, just have each area represent the demeanor, and two different buttons (A/B, or left/right bumper) stand for the positive or negative response. You can still get the good/evil bit, but you get more control of the character’s… Character, I guess, as well.

Sure I just raised their work only by… Well, five orders of magnitude… But this is my blog and I can make up crazy shit if I want. Hell, I’d be happy with threat, polite, and earnest, raising it by only one order of magnitude.

Other small things about ME:

The ability to actually alter the narrative of the game is exactly where I want to see games evolve in their future. One day we’ll reach a point where commercial games take all actions into effect, not just those it prompts the player with. Like Facade, only with a big budget… And probably guns.

Skipping through conversations I’ve already read is a horrible pain, as I’d inevitably click a conversation choice I didn’t want when trying to skip exposition.

While I wouldn’t have minded it if there was no voice acting, it was done phenomenally well. Also done well? Their focus on good filter use over polygons. I can ever forgive the pop-up because most of it looked so good. I was even able to watch my brother play often, as it was a pleasure to watch.

Williams’ incessant racism was crazy. Unfortunately, her being so damn good with a gun made me keep her around anyway. *sigh* Women. There’s always something.