Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Category: Gaming (Page 1 of 2)

A Look Back at Mass Effect and What Went Wrong

Let’s face it, there’s been little doubt Bioware has problems, not since Mass Effect: Andromeda was released. From some of the worst facial animations I’ve seen on a game from that studio (you have to go back to long before the original Mass Effect to find them) to news the Montreal studio was being shut down and merged with a new EA studio in the same town, Mass Effect fans have been wondering what the future of the franchise might be.

A week or so ago, it seemed fairly certain the studio was abandoning at least ME:A, if not the entire franchise. There came the announcement that there would be no single player dlc. Oh, they’d continue supporting the multi-player platform but fans wondered for how long. Bioware announced the remaining contracted books would come out but, let’s face it, that doesn’t exactly thrill the hardcore gamer. We want games to play in the Mass Effect universe and we want the questions left hanging in ME:A answered, either on our consoles or on our PCs, not in a book or graphic novel. We want to PLAY the game, not read it. The books are fine, as tie-ins. Not as substitutions.

And yes, I get the irony of a writer saying that.

Now, there is a small glimmer of hope for the future of the franchise. Casey Hudson, the man behind the success of the original Mass Effect Trilogy, has returned to Bioware as its general manager. I, for one, cheered when I first heard the news. When he left Bioware several years ago, I was concerned about how ME:A would fare. Between that and the game being shipped over to Montreal for development instead of staying with the originating studio worried me and, it appears, with good reason.

That said, I liked ME:A, despite its problems — and there were a slew of them. Note, liked it but didn’t love it and I loved the original trilogy. I enjoyed Andromeda’s combat system and the ability to switch between combat profiles on the fly. But a good combat system doesn’t make up for the lack of a compelling story, nor does it overcome lousy animations. Not in what should have been a premier game.

Last night, I sat down after finishing work and decided to play for a few minutes. As I noted in my earlier post, I’ve been replaying the Dishonored series in preparation for Dishonored: Death of the Insider. But I wasn’t in the mood for stealth and decided to start a replay of the original Mass Effect Trilogy. As I did, I found myself thinking about why I keep going back to ME. What is it that calls to me as a gamer? And, other than the animation/visuals, what about ME:A doesn’t call as much to me?

From the beginning of the first Mass Effect game, you knew there was something at stake. You knew the bad guy you fought was just the prelude and so much more was at stake than your own life or the survival of your ship and crew. There was an urgency in Mass Effect that built through ME 2 and culminated in ME 3. (We will forget about the ending of ME 3, which I still think is a cop-out)

But there is more to it. From the very start of Mass Effect, while you are watching the introductory scenes, you get a feel for Commander Shepherd. You know there is a history there, one you want to explore. It doesn’t matter which backstory you choose. You already know something about Shep and you want to find out more about it and you want to know how it will impact the game ahead.

You don’t have that with ME:A. All you know at first is there has been a colonization effort launched prior to the end of the original trilogy — something we never heard of before. That bothered me because, in the middle of a war where the players know that to lose means the extinction of all sentient life, there should have been some mention of plans to send people out of the galaxy in the hopes of saving civilization that way. But nope, no mention of.

The real problem, in my mind, with Andromeda is that Ryder, whether you play as Scott or Sarah, isn’t compelling. Sure, Ryder is thrust into the role of Pathfinder when Alec Ryder, the father, is killed. Until then, Ryder is simply another member of the Pathfinder team, not even the second-in-command. What you wind up getting is on the job training of your Pathfinder but in a very Mary Sue way because nothing goes wrong. Oh, there are evil aliens that want to rule the Andromeda sector but there are no missions that fail. No side quests, at least that I recall, where you can fail to rescue someone or something and that, in turn, has an impact on what happens next.

Since Andromeda came out, I’ve played the game twice. Once as Scott and once as Sarah. It was fun but it doesn’t rank up there as the great game it could have been. I said in an earlier review of Andromeda that the biggest mistake Bioware made was in calling this a Mass Effect game. I understand they wanted to cash in on the franchise but all they wound up doing is damaging the franchise, possibly fatally.

It takes more than having a character dressed in N7 armor or having a few recordings of fan favorite Liara to make this a Mass Effect-worthy game. Easter eggs like opening the right dialog boxes to reference Miranda Lawson aren’t enough either. There was a feel, a sense to Mass Effect that is missing in Andromeda. Bioware didn’t want another Commander Shepherd. That was their biggest mistake. This game needed a hero. Instead, it got an intern trying to step into daddy’s shoes and doing so without ever stumbling.

Nope, that’s not the way to do it.

We knew from the beginning that the Ryder, brother and sister, would live. We knew they would find someplace for their “Arc” to dock or land. We knew they would fight the bad guys and prove they belonged in Andromeda. And we never got the feel of being in peril we got from Saren or Sovereign in the first game. We never had a manipulator like the Illusive Man in ME2 and ME3. We never doubted we would win out.

What does this mean for the future of Mass Effect? With Hudson back at the helm of Bioware, not all hope is lost. He has tweeted that he would like to explore the universe again. But that most definitely isn’t the news the fans want. We want to know there will be a new game, one worthy of the first three. There is potential with ME:A. It was dropped due to poor management, poor design decisions, outsourcing to under-qualified designers and programmers. We’ll not even talk about the writing. But the potential for future GOOD games in the ME:A universe is there or Bioware could do what some fans have wanted since the end of ME3 — it could go into the future of the Milky Way or allied space and show us what’s happened and how everyone managed to come back from the destruction of the war.

Heck, it could pick up from the one ending where there was a glimmer of hope Shepherd was still alive.

One this is certain, if Bioware drops the ball again with a game like ti did with ME:A, the studio will be in serious trouble. Gamers can forgive a great deal but they can’t forgive bad game after bad game. We have long and vengeful memories at times.

 

The Question Has Been Answered

When I published Nocturnal Rebellion last week, I’d secretly wondered if there would be any more books. I had finished the story arc and, to be honest, I had no idea where the series might go from there. I think that’s one reason I’d been so busy making notes on other projects. Some of you told me you hoped there would be more books and that means more to me than you know. I love Mac and company and really didn’t want to think of not writing in that universe again. But I had no idea what to do next.

Then, BAM!, inspiration hit. It started subtly. Questions began to form in my mind that would need to be answered if I took the series any further. Before I knew it, I had something like three pages of notes and questions. But I still didn’t have a real plot, only things to keep in mind. I didn’t worry. The fact the questions were starting to hit meant my subconscious had been working on the issue without me realizing it.

So I kept making notes. Music played, coffee was had and, before I knew it, I had the bare threads of a plan. No, not an outline, but enough to let me know where the next book or two will go. It’s enough for me right now. I’ll finish up the basic notes today and then file them away. Next week, I’ll review the various projects I have waiting on my desk and pull together a more concise publishing schedule. For now, however, I am turning my attention to two things. The first is finishing up the special edition of Vengeance from Ashes. I am really excited about the additional material I’m adding to the original version. It doesn’t change the story but it does expand it. Once that is finished, I’ll pick back up with Victory from Ashes (and that title will change). I have the book drafted but set it aside for awhile. Now I can go back with fresh eyes and do a hard edit and rewrite what’s needed. In the meantime, I’ve been working on Light Magic, the next installment in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series..

For relaxation, I’ve been replaying the Dishonored games. I’ll admit, I owned Dishonored for probably a year before playing it the first time. My son recommended it. My initial hesitation about the game came from the stealth aspect. I’m not a big fan of games where stealth is the major component. So, the game sat on my hard drive until I needed something new to play. That’s when I realized it was so much more than a simple stealth game. This is my third play through of Dishonored and I’m enjoying it as much now as I did the first time.

When Dishonored 2 came out, I wasted no time buying it and playing it. I’m not sure the story was quite as compelling as the original, but I enjoyed being able to choose between Corvo (the playable character in the original game) and Emily (a grown-up version of an NPC in the original). The two characters had different powers and that helped give a different feel to the game depending on who you chose to play as.

The reason I’m replaying the games right now is because a third game, Dishonored: Death of the Insider, will be released next month. It takes another NPC from the first two games, Billie Lurke/Meagan Foster (sorry, spoiler there), and makes her the playable character. Also returning is Doud, the playable character from two of Dishonored’s dlc-s.

It is obvious, not only from the price of the game but from comments from the developers, that this isn’t a full-length game. However, it is supposedly more than a dlc campaign. We’ll see. I may regret paying full-price but the develops didn’t disappoint with the first two games, so I’m going to trust them this time.

Here’s a clip showing some of the gameplay.

I am looking forward to seeing if the game pans out. Now it’s time to get to work.

Later!

An update and a few thoughts

A week or so ago, I went on a rant about Origin and EA customer support. It wasn’t the first time I’ve had issue with a game through those two stalwarts — and I use that term very loosely. For the second or third time, I had a game that worked just fine and then, without any updates to my gaming laptop, it suddenly quit working. Oh, it would play just fine in off-line mode but trying to log into the EA/Origin servers? Nope, it wasn’t going to happen.

Due to prior experience trying to get help from Origin/EA support, I exhausted every other avenue first. That included uninstalling and reinstalling not only Origin but the game itself. Turning off processes that might be interfering. Making sure all my drivers were updated. Nothing. So, out of desperation, I contacted Origin — multiple times. Once I basically told them to get over themselves when they wanted me to reinstall my OS. What none of them could seem to grasp was that the game worked fine, unless I wanted to play online.

Finally, I was told they were escalating my issue up the chain and when — and if — their techies figured out what was going on, they’d contact me. No other information was available. At some point in the future, near or far, they’d be in contact with me but only if they figured out what was wrong.

I’ll admit I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I’d been told that before. This time, however, my confidence in them was less than it had ever been. Why? Not only couldn’t they seem to understand the game worked fine. The issue was simply logging into that particular game’s servers. Every other Origin game worked and logged into its server just fine. What made it worse was the techs, both the tech dealing with me on the phone and the one up the ladder he supposedly went to for further help before escalating my issue, couldn’t read and understand a date code.

You see, when I’d talked with Origin a week earlier, I’d sent them all the data about my gaming rig, including processes running, etc. That information was no longer accurate because I’d turned off further services, etc., services they kept telling me in the current call to turn off.

So, with nothing accomplished except making me more determined than ever to deal with Origin as little as possible in the future, I rang off and wrote the game off. I knew I’d never hear from Origin again.

You can imagine my surprise when, day before yesterday, I tried the game and — gasp — it logged into the server without a bit of trouble. Nope, I hadn’t heard from Origin. So who knows what changed. At least the game works. Even so, that bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Origin and EA remains. As does, to be honest, the bad taste of having to use a 3rd party platform to play a game because game publishers don’t want to let us have discs any more but want us logging in periodically so they can see what we are doing.

But, the game works and I guess that is all that matters.

Moving on.

E3 is coming up in just a few weeks and the “leaks” and announcements have started. One of those announcements deals with Far Cry 5. Not only has Ubisoft released the official announcement trailer, it has released several teasers trailers as well.

Now, it’s pretty clear the game is going to center around a religious cult of some sort and the resistance against it. As you can imagine, there are already articles coming out praising Ubisoft — as long as they make the right political statement. I’ve seen headlines hoping they are “thoughtful” about how they handle the storyline. (Check out the Dallas Morning News) Gamespot says Ubisoft can make a “serious political statement. . . or get it very, very wrong.”

All of which had me asking when it became more important for a game to make a political statement than it did to have, oh, good game play and a story line that kept the players involved?

That is a lesson Bioware needs to learn — and quickly. It may not have officially announced the death of the Mass Effect franchise but the writing is on the wall. And that’s unfortunate because the original Mass Effect trilogy was a blast to play. Sure, the ending of ME 3 was a serious let down, especially after having thought our decisions through the games would actually make a difference in the outcome of the game. I didn’t mind Shepard sacrificing himself (or in my case, herself) at the end of ME3. Hell, I expected Shep to die. But the way it was handled sucked eggs. Dirty, rotten eggs.

Still, the trilogy was great gameplay with a great storyline that kept fans coming back for more.

I had great hopes when they announced ME: Andromeda — until they started talking about the storyline and I started reading comments from certain members of the design team. Bioware didn’t help itself when it released the game before it was ready. I’ll not go into the problems with facial animations and other issues. Been there, done that.

All that said, the combat system is more than decent and, in a lot of cases, fun. Bioware — much as I’m afraid Ubisoft is going to do in Far Cry 5 — didn’t worry as much about a storyline that would keep fans interested. They looked at current social and political issues and tried to feed those into the game in such a way that everyone would be happy. Then, when someone or some group voiced disapproval, they spent time trying to appease that group instead of working on the quality of the gameplay.

In other words, Bioware and, unless it is very careful, Ubisoft, is going the way of traditional publishing. It is forgetting that appeasing a few voices can and often will alienate their core fans. Sure, any business wants to expand its fan base. But you don’t do that at the expense of losing your core. Why? Simple economics. You know what your core is. You know basically how many units they will buy. If you alienate them, you cut, often sharply, into that number of units sold without a guaranteed new audience to replace the loss.

Am I saying that there shouldn’t be more gay or trans or non-white characters? Absolutely not. I love that modern games, at least most of those I play, allow you to choose not only the sex but the “look” of your character and the way you interact with characters can, at least in some games, choose your sexual orientation. However, that should not be the guiding force of a game.

Developers need to remember that gamers first want a game that looks good and that has mechanics that work. They don’t want to pay $50 or more for a game that looks like it could have been developed 5 or 10 years ago.

They want a game that will challenge their abilities, be it an RTS or a puzzle-solver or a FPS or an MMORPG.

They want a story that is engaging and helps them identify with the characters. Look at it this way, if you don’t grab a gamer and keep their interest, they won’t keep playing. In that they are like readers. If they aren’t invested in the book, they won’t finish it.

As a female gamer, I don’t want to see male characters who only think of female characters as fuck toys. I like being able to play some games as a kick ass female character. But that is all secondary to having kick ass graphics and mechanics as well as an engaging story. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Isn’t it time for game designers and publishers to understand that it really doesn’t matter how good the icing is. That it’s the cake underneath that matters. If that sucks, no one is going to come back for seconds and that is going to impact the company’s bottom line.

Origin support sucks

And I m being nice.

Two, maybe three weeks ago, I tried getting help with a connectivity problem I was having. One game and one game only would not sign into the servers at Origin. If I took Origin offline, the game played fine. I’d say beautifully but the game had a ton of potential and it was shoved out the door before it was ready. Still, there’s some fun to be had in it and I like to play on occasion.

So, I report the error and when that doesn’t help, escalate to a call. They have me do everything from turning off Cortana to switching off the DVR capability of Windows game center (or whatever the hell it’s called) to setting a new log-on account with a new gaming profile on my laptop. Origin was uninstalled and reinstalled. The game was uninstalled and reinstalled. Nope, still can’t go online and yet the game plays great in off-line mode.

Today I took time during lunch to call in again and see what can be done. Heaven save me from idiots working support who can’t read dates of uploads. This idiot kept referring to an upload I made as being done today instead of more than a week ago. He went to the next level, telling them it was the current state of my laptop. So, when I told him, for the second or third time that he was referring to an old upload, he got flummoxed and fell back on the old standbye — “you’re video card doesn’t meet the minimum requirements”.

Which is, pardon me, bullshit. Which he would have realized if he had taken time to listen to what I’d said. The game had been connecting without issue up until 3 weeks ago. Even now, with Origin in offline mode, the game plays beautifully. No problem with the game except I can’t log into their crappy servers. Oh, and I have another laptop that is even older that plays the game and logs into the servers without problem. Another reason I know the issue isn’t with my modem at home.

Because I’d done everything in his little book of canned response, I am no in the eternal hell of waiting for them to get back with me. The last time this happened, with a game by the same developer and with almost identical issues, I never heard back. I finally found the answer in some very obscure forum.

And EA wonders why folks hate Origin. Between the debacle of releasing Mass Effect: Andromeda before it was ready and the already sour taste so many of us have in our mouths about Origin, EA shouldn’t be surprised when folks find ways not to use them.

I guess I won’t be holding my breath to hear back from them and I will think long and hard before buying anything else that has to go through Origin.

Disappointed but not surprised

I’ve never made a secret of the fact I game to relax. I started out as a console gamer but have moved more and more to the laptop for my gaming needs. Like so many others, I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. Also like so many fans, I’ve watched with a jaundiced eye as EA took over Origin and “little things” like customer support seemed to falter.

When Bioware and EA announced, finally, the latest installment in the Mass Effect universe, I was hopeful. The ending of ME3 left me a bit skeptical but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I even pre-ordered the game and played the first 10 hours under Origin Access, there were glitches but, overall, the game was satisfactory, especially since I assumed there would be updates before release.

Let’s face it, there is no excuse for the poor facial animations or the return to character animations that often looked like they had been done 10 years ago. Bioware did listen to the critiques and has tried to correct at least some of it. That continued with the latest patch yesterday. Of course, there is still that ghostly white shine in character’s mouths — although it does seem a bit less than before. But it is too little too late and, apparently, even Bioware admits it.

More on that in a minute.

While Andromeda suffers from some “WTF were they thinking” problems, not only with the facial animations but with dialog that often has you wanting to slam your fist through the screen — and let’s not discuss some of the bad delivery of those lines — the combat is fun and engaging. If you can zone out on the rest of it, there’s a game there worth playing.

Now, back to Bioware.

When it was announced that Bioware’s Montreal studio would be developing Andromeda, a number of us wondered if the powers-that-be had lost their minds. The Montreal studio had not developed a game on its own (at least not that I can remember). Sure, it had worked to develop DLC for ME3 but that’s a far cry from developing a full game, especially one of the studio’s cornerstone games.

Then there were the concerns voiced after Dragon Age: Inquisitions came out. Again, a decent game but not really up to what we’d come to expect from Bioware. There have been other missteps as well, enough to wonder what is going on in the company.

Now, on the heels of the release of the latest patch for Andromeda comes word that Bioware has put any further games in the Mass Effect franchise on hold. There’s no official cancellation but there are no plans to begin working on the next game in the series. Worse, at least for those of us who have purchased Andromeda, there is no sign that Bioware is working on story driven DLC for the game.

At least, if it happens, it is doubtful it will come from the Montreal studio as most of the gave devs there who had worked on Andromeda have been shuffled off to other projects.

And that, my friends, makes me wonder again wtf is going on. If you have a game that is so widely anticipated as Andromeda and then is released with as many problems, why in the hell are you rewarding the team responsible and by keeping them on and moving them to other key projects is rewarding them.

Does this spell the end of Mass Effect in any of its iterations? I don’t know. It sure doesn’t look good right now. Worse, Bioware and EA have breached their trust with their customers with this game. There is a level of expectation they have built with us through the previous Mass Effect games and that has not been met. Even with Inquisition, again not nearly as good as the previous games in that series, we got story driven DLC. The studio didn’t abandon the game or its fans — and that’s what it looks like they are doing now.

Considering the fact I’ve been trying to work with Origin tech support all week and finding them just about as helpful as the tree in my backyard, to say I’m leery of buying anything from them in the future is putting it mildly. And that’s a shame since EA and Bioware have been home for several of my favorite gamin franchises.

Here’s hoping Bioware pulls its head out of its ass before it screws up another franchise — in other words, Star Wars Battlefront II fans, beware. Some of those devs from Andromeda are being moved to your game.

More on ME: Andromeda and future projects

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience and thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda – PC after the first couple of hours of game play. There are a couple of things I want to add to that post, especially since I have seen a number of reviews wondering what the hell Bioware thought when they made the game. Mind you, these reviews are from sites that I usually find myself, if not completely disagreeing with then at least thinking they have taken it a bit too far. Those reviewers and professional players (youtube channels) I respect and who tend to be my go-to when I’m not sure about a game, all seem to agree with my take on the game so far.

If you look at some of the reviews, you’ll see folks bitching about the animation of the faces of a number of the characters. Yes, there is some issue. But to say the animation has taken a step back not only at least one generation but years of game development is to overstate the case. My take is that there are two issues. The first is that some, if not all, of the concerns will be taken care of in a first day/week patch. And let’s face it, we all know there will be such a patch. Very few major games are released now without such a patch happening.

Second, and this dawned on me yesterday as I played for a few minutes, some of the animation — especially when we get a closeup of a character’s face — is like what we had when TV shows were suddenly broadcast in HD. We see every flaw in the complexion, etc. There is one cutscene in particular where we see a closeup of Sarah Ryder and it is all facial pores, imperfections and — well — normal skin. Just not what you’re used to seeing in a video game

Another complaint I’ve seen — and this predates the early access release on Origin — is that Bioware seems to have tried to make Sarah Ryder ugly. Again, who the fuck cares? I’m not particularly fond of everything about the way the default Ryder looks but you know you? She looks normal. Not every video game character, and especially not every female character, has to be a “beauty”. Don’t like the preset character, use the customization options. And get the fuck over yourselves.

Is the game perfect? No. But no game is. Some are better than others. But for most of those who are complaining the loudest, they either haven’t played the game yet or they are like me. They’ve played some or all of the 10 hour early access and, to be honest, that doesn’t get you very far into the game and, if they really thought about it, there will be patches to deal with some of the issues they have brought up. I’m willing to wait and see what happens before passing final judgment.

So far, this Mass Effect feels more like the original Mass Effect in a lot of ways. There are things I like and some that I don’t. I look forward to truly being able to explore the game when it is released and there isn’t a time limit imposed on how long I can play.

In other news, I want to once again thank everyone’s support of Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I especially want to thank those of you who have left reviews. You guys are great. Please keep the reviews coming. They really help. Now I’m off to work on Nocturnal Rebellion and plot the next Eerie Side of the Tracks title. Well, actually titles. I figured out yesterday the order for the next three titles in the series (one short story as well as the follow-up to Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) and then the next novel which will be Ciara’s story). The next book, however, after Rebellion will be Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty series) and that one is already plotted and a very rough draft mostly written. So, busy writer am I, especially since I have a couple of editing projects I’m working on as well. That means I need to get off of the internet and get back to work.

First Impressions

Yesterday, I joined a number of gamers taking advantage of Origin Access to play 10 hours of Mass Effect Andromeda – PC before the game’s official release. No, I didn’t play all 10 hours. For one, I couldn’t download the preview until 1630 hrs. Then I had to take care of a couple of things, be somewhat social with family and, as I said, I had a migraine. So, I played approximately two hours and that is enough to confirm that I am looking forward to playing some more.

I am playing the game on PC. Specifically on a ROG laptop. My video card won’t let me run the game at max specs but, damn, I don’t need to. The game is beautiful and I saw no stuttered or any other video issues.

To save a few minutes, I accepted the default build for Sarah Ryder. When I start a new game and am not on a countdown clock, I will play with the character creation possibilities. I did choose Sarah for two reasons. One, I played mainly as FemShep in the original ME trilogy. For another, the clips I’ve seen of the game leave me thinking Scott Ryder is pretty much a whiner. There is something about his voice I don’t like. So, for this limited play, I went with the character I felt would annoy me the less.

I’ll admit, the opening sequence is longer than I expected. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But when you are watching the clock counting down, every minute of actual game play counts. Once you get through the opening sequence, you learn a little about your character and the mission. I’m going to try to go through the rest without any spoilers. So, no real discussion of plot until the game is out and I’ve managed to play more of it.

The controls are familiar. There are two main changes from the previous games. The first is your scanner. It allows you to scan tech, flora and fauna and the information you gain as a result can have an impact on the game later on. The second change is you have a jetpack. That’s pretty cool and it gives combat a whole new dimension.

There are some easter eggs you come on pretty early into the game as well. When you get to the Nexus, you can find a model of the Normandy SR2. There are also recordings from Liara. No, she isn’t a character in this game — at least not so far and not from what I understand based on interviews I’ve read with Bioware designers and execs.

There are other changes as well and I am reserving judgment on them until I’ve played some more. You aren’t tied to a class like you were in the other games. In other words, you aren’t a Sentinel or Soldier or Engineer, etc. You also can use any weapon, or so I understand. That means the decisions you can add powers/abilities to meet the sort of combat you want. The Paragon/Renegade system is also gone. That means you choose your conversation options more on how you think your character would react to the situation instead of almost automatically choosing the answer that best fits the “nature” you chose for your character.

What is going to be interesting as I progress through the game is seeing how the game developers address the events in the original trilogy. After all, more than 600 years have passed since the end of the trilogy. There is no canon ending, or so I understand. (And I still have issues with the ending of ME3). Still, there are issues that could be mentioned/addressed no matter what your particular ending was.

All in all, I am enjoying the game and am considering doing what I rarely do — pre-ordering the game. More than that, I am considering buying the deluxe edition of it. Not because I care about the multiplayer packs or extra outfits but because I like the score for the game so far and would wind up paying the price difference to buy the soundtrack. No decision yet but that’s the way I’m leaning.

Fair warning, if you are a multiplayer fan, ME:A does have multiplayer and it is getting pretty good reviews so far. However, there are micro-transactions included in it. That’s something I don’t like.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the game so far and will keep playing until my 10 hours are done. The release date is March 20th in the US.

In the meantime, if you need something to read,  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered it. Thanks to those of you who are buying it now. I have one more favor to ask. Please leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. Reviews are one way you can do “word of mouth” to help spread the news about the book.

 

Just Say No To Sanctimonious Rants – by Kate Paulk

(Kate is my sister from another mother. She is one of the nicest people I know — until she comes across someone climbing on their soapbox without doing adequate research. That is especially true when they are trying to talk about the evils of a bit of coding and they don’t take the time to research the topic. You see, Kate’s 9 – 5 job is to test coding and tell programmers where they’ve gone wrong. Add that to a healthy Aussie sense of humor and snark and you get the following post.)

For a variety of reasons I found myself over at the site with the jammies looking at one of their subleading lights (actually, this one, to judge by the quality of the prose and the abysmal excuse for research (no, it is not research if you pull it from parts of your anatomy best not mentioned in polite society) doesn’t even rate as a dim bulb) ranting about Pokemon Go in the guise of parental advice and concern for The Children.

So I decided, screw it, I’m going to fisk.

Original text is in italics. My commentary is not.

Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation. Millions of kids and adults are wandering around town staring at their phones (even more than usual) trying to capture Pokemon monsters, or something.

Two sentences and I know where this is going. Anyone unfortunate enough to read this piece is going to be subjected to a screaming hissy fit about the Evils of Gaming and – this being nominally a parenting column (it even has Parents: in the title) – a whole lot of raving For The Children!

For the interested: take note of the verbiage here. This is a classic piece of framing the narrative, first by the hyped claims about the popularity of the game, and then the way it’s being belittled. Now, I’m the first to admit that a parenting advice column is going to have a lot of opinion in it, but taking snide pot-shots at others is, in most venues, considered bad form (of course, for a fisking, it’s pretty much de-rigeur).

Parents are thrilled that kids are out walking the neighborhood instead of sitting in front of a screen (although one could argue that only the location has changed).

 Well, yes, one could argue that only the location has changed, but one would be committing a rather grave error in fact if one did. Walking is not the same as sitting, and no amount of opinion is going to change that. Clearly, our sage advice columnist isn’t quite sage enough to avoid the trap of the dangling participle – and it’s a bracketed participle at that, which makes the error even more egregious.

Yes, the location of the screen has changed. Is she saying that kids are out sitting the neighborhood with that parenthetical asside? (okay, that was a real typo, but too apt to edit out. So “asside” stays. If you don’t like it, this is my middle finger).

 And who am I to stand in the way of kids getting out and walking?

 Oh, dear. Dearie dearie me. Megan, sweetie, better writers than you have tried that rhetorical device and failed. You are not covering yourself with glory here – and I haven’t finished wading through your first paragraph yet.

 Satire sites are having a heyday with the new app, skewering Twitter posters who have sore legs for the first time in years from accidentally getting exercise. Seems harmless, even useful, right?

 What seems harmless or even useful? Skewing complaining Twitters (or is that Twits? I might have a Twitter account but the last time I used it was two or three computers ago, so I’m really not familiar with the thing. As you might guess, I’m a tad on the wordy side)? I’m sure that’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t seem all that useful to me.

Yes, yes, all right. I know she meant that the game seems harmless or maybe even useful. But damn it, she’s getting paid for this: she could at least get the basic grammar right and not post crap with unclear antecedents.

 And so I downloaded it.

Which “it”? I’m risking the ultimate doom of every grammar snark (it being an unbreakable Rule that any snarking of grammar or spelling will have at least one egregious error), but ye gods. This isn’t an article or even an opinion piece. It’s got the same freaking cadence as the Nuremberg Rally, starting with apparently reasonable statements and ratcheting up the tension and paranoia at every turn. The address for the rally had a better speechwriter, though (and no, translations don’t do it justice. Something like that you need the cadence of the original language. Um. Excuse me while I go bludgeon my inner history nerd, my inner propaganda nerd, and my inner grammar nerd. They’re getting out of hand).

 I gave in to the peer pressure from every radio station DJ who said I had to have it.

 There is so much wrong with this sentence it transcends wrongitude. And if wrongitude isn’t a word it bloody well should be. What kind of mature adult gives into peer pressure from freaking radio DJs? I’ll concede the possibility that a lot of DJs were pushing the game (you know, Pokemon Go), either because they love it themselves or – more likely – their station was paid rather a lot to push Pokemon Go at every opportunity. I don’t listen to radio, so I wouldn’t know what’s being said.

However, on the rare occasions I find myself forced to watch or listen to ads, I am quite capable of resisting their siren call, taking said siren call and shoving it somewhere dark and uncomfortable for the advertiser. Metaphorically speaking. Methinks if the above is a factual statement, Fraulein Fox devotes a little too much time and attention to commercial media.

 My kids don’t have phones, but I thought maybe I would let them use my phone when we were out and about to capture a few Pokemon critters.

 Really? That sounds like a rather sad after the fact justification to me. You are allowed to admit you were just a teensy bit curious about this game that’s driving the whole country (to borrow your overblown rhetoric for a bit) wild, you know. People might actually have a bit more respect for you if you aren’t hiding behind a lame “oh, it’s for my kids” line.

 And shortly after installing it, I came to my senses.

 This statement is either a lie or delusional. Possibly both. You see, it’s quite possible to tell before you download and install a game what permissions it wants. You don’t have to install the thing to discover it requires you to sacrifice your first-born… Oh, in your next sentence you say it didn’t ask for your first born as a blood sacrifice, just your soul. Lame. No first-rate game asks for so little: every game company knows souls aren’t worth the effort these days. They’re all pre-mortgaged to caffeine.

 The app wants total control over my camera, my video, my GPS, my Google account, my emails, my photos, my soul and God knows what else.

Witness, all, the attempt at humorous hyperbole landing smack on its face because of the simple factual error in the first five words. The app does not want anything. In order to function as programmed, the application requires certain permissions. Those permissions do not amount to “total control” of anything. Honestly, folks, if you have to pontificate about something, it really helps to know what the heck you’re talking about, or you’ll just make yourself look like a complete idiot to anyone who does know the facts.

And while you – and everyone else – have every right to your opinion, however ludicrous it may be, you do not have the right to your very own set of facts. Reality is a bitch that way.

 Why are we all voluntarily signing up to be tracked everywhere we go?

 Ah, yes. I was right. This is indeed a Nuremberg Rally style deal, and we’re moving into the frothing hysteria. Of course, Freulein Fox doesn’t have the ability to make her audience come on the spot (yes, this is allegedly something that happened at those big swastika-enhanced dos), so instead it comes out kind of shrill and silly.

Oh, and the answer to the question? Some people think that what they’re getting in return for letting applications track them via GPS is worth the loss of privacy. You know, the everyone benefits thing that happens in a free market? Theoretically, anyway, since the only free markets around right now are kind of… er… black.

 Not only are we laying bare our every move to who knows who, it is every pedophile’s dream come true.

 Wow. I’m impressed. It took this long to bring out the pedophile bogeyman.

The who knows who part, if the app has been written properly, its data collection is limited to some kind of installation identifier that has zero connection to the person using the phone. It should communicate with every other app it uses (and the phone hardware) by a little bit of arcane software magic called an API.

And, sweetie, APIs are everywhere. They’re only insecure if they’re badly written, and they’re not about “laying bare our every move to who knows who” (incidentally, ‘who’ is likely to be ‘nobody’ unless, again, it’s written badly. Even Google’s location service doesn’t know who is holding the phone. It only knows where the phone has been. If it was turned on in the first place).

 Already teens are being lured into abandoned parking lots where they are then robbed.

 And this is different from a normal day how?

 Other outlets are reporting zombie-like people, not paying attention to anything but their phones, wandering onto private property without realizing it, blocking driveways and scaring people.

Apparently there are some pretty wussy people out there, if someone obsessed with a phone is scary. Oh, and this is different from a normal day how?

 (In Texas, Missouri, Arizona and anywhere else with castle laws, this could be a deadly activity since homeowners have the right to use deadly force on trespassers.)

 Error of fact. And a damn great big one, at that. Every state with a castle law has this concept called “reasonable force”, and killing trespassers who aren’t brandishing a weapon at you and posing an imminent threat doesn’t count as ‘reasonable’ anywhere that actually has a functioning rule of law (I am aware this rules out much of Chicago, Detroit, and a variable and ever-expanding radius around certain politicians).

False assertions work against propagandizing, Freulein. There needs to be enough fact underpinning your claims to make them believable. This particular little gem fails on every count and is likely to be believed only by raving leftists and paranoiacs. Maybe. If they’re having a particularly bad day.

 Kids don’t need Pokemon Go to get exercise because they should be spending their days up trees and at the beach and hiking in the woods.

 So just what is the difference between spending your day up trees and at the beach and hiking in the woods while playing a game on your phone and doing exactly the same thing while not playing a game on your phone? In terms of exercise gained, buggerall. In terms of interaction with like-minded souls, well… Sweetie, not all kids have the good fortune to have friends in their neighborhood. Are you going to keep them from interacting with their friends who live hundreds of miles away because you believe this game is a bad thing?

If you are – and the whole damn article is nothing but a badly disguised rant on the topic of “phone games Bad. For The Children!Eleventy!” – then you should fit right in with everyone else trying to force the rest of the world to follow their enlightened ways because “It’s for your own good”.

What happened to limiting screen time as much as possible?

 It turned out that, like everything, balance works better. You know, mixing it up a bit.

 It’s not good for human brains!

 Someone would appear to have mixed up the problems that come from passively soaking up the content of the idiot box (which, again, is perfectly fine in moderation, and doesn’t even need to be rationed as long as there are plenty of other enjoyable activities around) and having no parental discussion of said content with the rather more engaged processes that go with computer games of all flavors.

 Study after study shows this is true.

 Then why, my dear, did you neglect to reference more than one or two rather sub-par articles about such studies?

Electronics interfere with sleep cycles, are connected to depression, and contribute to the general malaise plaguing children who can’t seem to get off the couch.

And yet you rant against a game that works to get children up off their duffs and outside in the debatably fresh air. Which is just the beginning of the things wrong with your assertions.

To start with, those studies you’re referencing are looking at excess or outright stupidity. Of course if you leave an electronic device that lights up (however dimly) in your bedroom you’re going to affect your sleep pattern. In the immortal words of damn near every teenage girl ever, “Duh”.

As for the connection to depression, it’s rather clear you’re not actually reading it, Megan. Otherwise you’d have realized that the researchers don’t know if the connection is causal, much less which direction the cause runs. In smaller words, that means depressed people could be playing games to distract themselves. You know, the same way in times past depressed people would do things like read?

As for the “general malaise” claim, believing everything someone on the internet says is a really bad idea. Honestly, this sentence reads more like the kind of scam that uses links to scary-sounding articles to convince some sucker… customer to buy the kool-aid.

 Have parents abandoned their inherent distrust of screens? When did that happen?

Let’s do a little word replacement exercise here, shall we? On second thoughts, let’s not. Just imagine what it would look like if you replaced “parents” with “Germans” or “blacks” or “whites”. And “screens” with “Jews” or “whites” or “blacks”. If you still think this isn’t hysterical ranting, you need remedial English.

 Now, the newest electronic craze seems sure to send your child directly into harm’s way.

 Hardly. Kids who were glued to their phone screen before Pokemon Go will do the same dumb stuff as they did before installing the game. And that’s before applying the commonsense filter of “the media will link anything they can to the hot new craze to get clicks” otherwise known as exactly what our good author is doing here: using the game in a title as clickbait for an otherwise bald and unconvincing tirade.

 If you still think Pokemon is a must have for this summer, think again.

 Oh, the assumptions buried in this one sentence. The judgment. The rancid, unmitigated superiority. Ye dogs, the poor perv this author found jacking off to porn in a public library (not something I would normally approve of – or ever, really) should have withered and melted under her steely glare. Or something.

 Do your kids a favor and give them a 1985-style summer.

 Someone’s got to say it. Judging by the tone of the article, this should be a 1984-style summer, under the benevolent, watchful gaze of Big Sister.

Drink out of the hose, ride your bike just for the pleasure of the wind in your face, and leave the phones at home.

These are my middle fingers. I will do what I think is appropriate, and you madam, can take your sanctimonious pap and shove it right beside that massive stick you have up your fundamental orifice.

 (For the curious – the original article can be found at https://archive.is/mVtNX)

***

Amanda here, now.

I wanted to add a quick counterpoint to the original article as well. What the author seems to overlook is that Pokemon Go! can and is being used as a socialization tool. Families that weren’t spending all that much time together, and especially not outside, are now going on hunts together. Communities are putting together activities for all ages so they can hunt those ever elusive Pokemon, find Pokemon gyms, etc. Yes, there are some areas asking you not to hunt on their grounds and I have no problem with it. But zoos, parks, even some museums are greeting those who are using the app with open arms and encouraging them to attend events at their locations.

In other words, as with everything, the key is educating yourself and your kids and using common sense.

One more quick note, for those of you who don’t know, Kate is also an author with a wicked sense of humor. The series we are all after her to write more in is her Con series. I’ve linked to the first book in the series below.

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

I’m baaaack. . .

Maybe.

Yesterday was one of those days when, after too much stress, the mind and body simply got together and firmly said, “Nope, not gonna work, not gonna think, not gonna do anything.” It was one of those moments when I realized just how long it has been since I’ve had a real vacation — one where I don’t work, write or kill myself working around the house. I won’t go into the reasons behind my brain putting its foot down. Some of you know and, if you don’t, it isn’t anything of any real import now. It was just something that for a 24 hour period interrupted everything else going on and had me angrier than I have been in a very, very long time. That sort of anger is not only counter-productive but exhausting.

So I found myself yesterday unable to write or read for most of the day. Since daytime TV sucks eggs — it is ever worse that evening TV — I did some gaming. One of the things I did was play the demo for the new Doom. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories of the original Doom, one of the first games I ever played on PC. The demo isn’t long, just the first mission of the game. But it was more than enough to show that the reviews I’ve seen aren’t lying. The game rocks.

If you are interested in trying out the demo, time is running out (if it hasn’t already). You can snag a copy from Steam or its equivalent if you are a console player. Try it out. I’d be interested in hearing what you think about it.

Since that didn’t take long (no more than an hour or so, if I remember correctly), I went back to playing Dishonored – PC. This is one of those games I both love and hate. I love it because it is challenging and there is no one “right” way to play the game. There are different paths you can take to reach your destination. You can choose to play a purely stealth game or you can go in gun and blade and powers blazing. The decisions you make impact how people respond to you and impacts the ending of the game.

I hate the game for much the same reasons. I tend to game to beat stress. Having to sneak around and kill as few enemy as possible is not good for lowering the stress level. In fact, at least for me, it raises it. But it is also a great mental game because you have to pay attention to everything going on around you. You need to look for patrol patterns, etc. and keep track of the number of kills you’ve made if you are working for a low chaos ending.

That also makes for replayability. That is a big consideration in my book. When you pay $50 or more for a game, I want more than a few hours of play time with little to no desire to replay the game. I am hoping when Dishonored 2 Limited Edition – PlayStation 4 comes out, it follows the same theme of your choices impacting the end of the game. I already like the fact you can choose to play the game as either Korvo or Emily and that they will have different powers and abilities. That was one of the things that made Assassin’s Creed Syndicate so much fun and gave it a replayability factor so many games don’t have.

Better yet, the gaming did give my brain enough time to process what had it demanding time off. By late afternoon, I was able to get a little bit of work done. Better yet, while I was gaming, the back brain had been working and it figured out why I was balking on the opening of the short story I’ve been working on. The story was drafted in very rough form but something just didn’t work and I couldn’t figure it out. Well, now I have and it won’t be that major a fix. Better yet, I should be able to get back on schedule in another day or two — assuming real life doesn’t blow up around me again.

Anyway, that was my day yesterday and the reason for no blogging. Now I need to get my butt in the desk chair and get to work. Back later. Have a great day!

Microsoft at E3

I’ll admit, I didn’t have high expectations for much new coming out of Microsoft’s E3 press conference yesterday. Part of that is because I’m primarily a PC gamer. So I didn’t have a lot of interest in finding out if a new XBOX was coming out or a slimmer model, etc. While I love Halo, it’s not enough to make me buy a console just to play one or two games on. Still, when I watched a replay of the press conference, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

First of all, some of the XBox news did catch my eye. Microsoft got the drop on Sony by announcing its next console, “Project Scorpio“.  “Set to release in 2017, the new system will feature 8 cores, 320Gb memory bandwidth, and six teraflops of performance that will allow for true fully uncompressed 4K gaming. This suggests it will not simply be upscaled 2160p.” Of more interest in some ways than the specs for the new console is the fact it will supposedly be backwards compatible with the XBox One and the XBox One S, that include controllers and peripherals.

But what really made that news interesting was this next bit of news. XBox Play Anywhere will let you buy an XBox One game and then play it on your PC. This supposedly will be at no extra cost — of course, that doesn’t meant they won’t raise the base price of the game. That is something we will have to wait and see.  Confirmed games so far are:

  • Gears of War 4
  • Dead Rising 4
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Scalebound
  • State of Decay 2
  • Halo Wars 2

But what about games? Four caught my instant attention. The first is Dead Rising 4.

Next up is ReCore.

And we can’t forget Halo Wars 2.

Not to be left out, Gears of War 4.

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