Posts Tagged ‘Earth’

Hey Sports-fans,

So last week I posted about my experiences in Watch the Skies 3, which was hella-fun. Now, having had some time to reflect, I’d like to talk about three key tweaks I’d like to make to the game.

This post might read a little weird as I’ve essentially pasted the email I sent to the admins, as they need the feedback too and I don’t want to re-write.

Thoughts are appreciated!

Press Interaction

Idea: To split the Paper (layout-wise) into two distinct halves – Regional News & Headlines. In the Regiona News section, Press have a quota of one story per continent with players. Headline half is the same as always.

Thinking: I don’t have a problem with the press game, and if this idea is rejected it’s not going to ruin anything for me, but I do believe it can be tweaked to make the… relationship between Teams and Press a little bit fairer for everyone involved.

I’ve already spoken to Becky about this idea for some feedback from her end of things, and she said she was on board with it.

Essentially, in a game with 300 people all collaborating and being smart and doing *things*, many, many teams are going to lose out in the press game. It’s just a fact – too much going on, not enough spaces in the paper.

That’s fine – but It’s one of those things where between Nations doing things and the presence of Aliens and talking whales, a lot can get lost in a game, and yet as human national (and corps) teams, we’re still told to court the press, to try and get good coverage to boost ourselves. But not all of us get to interact with the aliens and whales or do something crazy like blow up a Eurovision team. As a specific example to Nigeria:

  • We bribed FIFA to hold the 2030 World Cup in Nigeria. To be fair, Becky said she was going to print this but she forgot about it due to technical snafus, so that was bad luck.
  • Nigeria cleaned up the ocean several times. We were specifically told by local control to go to the press and tell them, but the press didn’t report on it so we didn’t get anything.
  • Nigeria bribed a whole American Old Tech Corps to their side. A reporter came over to ask a few questions, but nothing went in the paper.

Now – I’m not upset by any of this. We had a great game without the press boosts. Like I said: someone always has to lose out because it’s a competition for the news slots.

My only concern is that as a nation it’s hard to just make something up that’s newsworthy, as that’s not in the spirit of the game. It’s not something you can force, or engineer – either something interesting enough happens or it doesn’t, depending on how your game unfolds. Random chance and ‘reasons’ also don’t help a nation’s odds of getting featured, and then it’s really easy to lose out to an exotic story. This tweak allows nations to compete in two ways – on the regional level for a ‘local’ story, and then if their game is particularly interesting then there’s the global headline stage as well.

My resoning for wanting to make this fairer is BECAUSE it’s something we’re told to interact with, and get rewarded for. I’d like to think I’m not fundementally changing how the press works, just that they give more consideration to regional stories as well as their headlines. Boring stories will always be ignored, but interesting stories that arn’t quite as interesting as aliens or whales stand a better chance of featuring.

To use real-world precedent – many global news services have regional sections that fill up news from a specific international area, separate from the headlines. There’s always something going on so these sections can always get filled, and even if nothing interesting happens that turn in a region… well, welcome to real life. You ever read a local newspaper? They still have to report news, even if that news is just a cat getting stuck in a drainpipe. Besides, there are enough wonderfully creative people in a region that something is bound to happen, so it just means the regional reporter has to try a little bit harder to find out what it is.

Permit Cards

Idea: Expand Permit Cards to other areas of the game that rely heavily on controlled interaction or specific pre-requisities. Save Control a lot of work.

Thinking: The talking language permit cards worked wonderfully well. Helped keep the player base honest I think and focused a lot of interaction around seeking out one of these cards.

I personally think this should be expanded to other concepts – such as travelling up into Space. I know you had to stop people going upstairs who didn’t have a spaceship, so perhaps this could also be controlled by cards.

So to go up to the alien balcony, you’d need either:

  • An alien player with you.
  • A ‘Travel to Space’ permit card, (Or a ‘Spaceship’ card) which you get when you collect some pre-requisite techs or something. Or be with someone who has that card.

I think it’ll help keep the player-base honest again, save you from having to act as a bouncer, and again prove a focal point for interactions.

Terror Track

Idea: Evauate Terror Track’s purpose, influences, and how that fits in with how the game is evolving from an ‘Enemy Unknown’ to a ‘Enemy Known’ situation.

Thinking: Again, I don’t really have a problem with the terror track. I wonder if it needs evaluating though for WTS4?

Basically – the Aliens are known about in WTS3. In our region, a few nations even actively encouraged them to come down, do stuff on the operational map… and yet the terror track still went up. The operational game almost goads you into shooting down UFO’s because if you do you get Good Stuff(TM), if you don’t your regional terror goes up and then Bad Stuff™ happens. But you don’t really want to shoot them down as you want to have a dialogue. Which requires them to come down to Earth. Which puts the terror track up.

It’s possible I missed something important behind the scenes, but from where I was sitting there seemed to be a genuine disconnect between the Operational and Diplomatic/Politica portion of the game in this regard. Our own national policy was to not shoot down UFOs, something all Africa agreed on and many African nations had working Alien relations. Yet turn after turn I had to watch the regional terror track go up every-time a UFO turned up, and I found myself wondering why that was happening and what I could really do about it.

The terror track was perfect for WTS1 & 2 – aliens were unknown, strange events kept happening, and people naturally freaked the hell out. Nations had to balance between trying to open a dialogue with these visitors, and keeping their skies clear and their people happy.

In the WTS3 and I imagine even more so in WTS4, the game has changed, evolved. The Aliens aren’t an unknown force anymore, so what does the Terror Track represent now? What factors influence it’s rise and fall? Depending on what WTS4 is going to be about (it’s called Global Apocalypse?), I can see a terror track being needed, but does it need to evolve as the game is evolving? Do you need to make players more aware as to it’s changing nature and what influences it? Otherwise a team’s default policy might as well be “Shoot Everything” and know your public will love you for it, because terror is an Important Thing(TM).

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So. Let’s talk about Mass Effect 3, shall we? I know I’m a week or two late, but like I’ve had work to do and then that thing happened last week and I’ve only just gotten around to completing it Monday night. In a word: unsatisfying. Which is weird because I enjoyed every single second of that game, right up until you go into the Citadel for the finale – which according to my save data happened at 45 Hours and 51 minutes. That’s nearly 46 hours of awesome followed by ten minutes of “oh”. Considering how much effort you put into that game it could almost be a slap in face.

Now, I’m no stranger to ‘er, what?’ endings – Battlestar Galactica I thought handled it as well as it could, and I liked that ending. The ending to Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace is similar to what Mass Effect 3 has seemingly tried to do – I won’t go into details, but in many ways it does way more, and yet far less than Mass Effect 3‘s ‘ending’, and I was still satisfied. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I only had to read one book to get there, as opposed to playing through three games, but my point is it’s not the fact that they introduced a seemingly all powerful being right at the very end that’s responsible for everything which is why it was unsatisfying – it’s the way it was handled.

Assuming this is the ‘real’ ending, the framework there could still be interesting, it just needed more exposition: some cataclysmic event persuaded say the ‘first’ races that something like this should never happen again, so they create an army of all powerful machines to ‘cull’ the galaxy every 50,000 years to make way for the newer, younger races, and so the cycle goes. “All this has happened before, and all this shall happen again”, as Battlestar Galactica puts it – the ChildIllusion at the end, an avatar of this ideal and probably the remnant of whoever’s idea it was in the first place, again, that’s fine. The Illusion Baltar/Number Six in BSG, the Enigmatic Voice of God from Forever Peace… that all works fine for me. IF that’s what it is. However…

Now, interestingly there’s a popular theory circulating around about the ending not being the ‘real’ ending. What this video, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and give this article a read to, as it analyses that theory as well as the current ending in general. If the indoctrination theory (or a similar result – the supporting evidence could point to a number of things) turns out to be true, then I take all of this back – bravo Bioware. However, there’s still the fact that, as of yet, we are left with the ending as it is, so regardless of what happens next, Bioware still presented us wither something that is either quite possible the most unsatisfying ending ever, or a poor the worst delivery of an ending ever (even if the ‘real’ ending is far better).

It still doesn’t account for things like the Normandy crash landing on that planet, because if there is something going on here, I don’t really see the point including those scenes, unless it’s to feed the illusion that this is the real ending. But then it’s so poor I don’t see why you would do that either.  The thing that upset me the most though is that, regardless of what’s real, or what’s not, I didn’t get what I was promised. Not sure how familiar you guys are with the choices, but I chose the Synthesis ending as I wanted to see what that would look like. They didn’t show me what that would look like, so that was kind of annoying.

Interestingly though, I have a save file for the start of that ending sequence, so I can go back and change which ending I choose if I want. I probably will, because if rumours are true then the ‘Destroy’ option is the one you want to be choosing anyway. So we’ll see.

Whilst I’m here, a couple of other general points that struck me:

* Kai Leng – this character should have been Ashley or Kaiden, whichever one died in Mass Effect 1. Not only would it be a perfect addition to the whole stand-off they developed between Shepard and the alive one (which was over a bit too quickly for my liking, but at least you could see it brewing), it would have really played on the fact that Shepard was straining under the weight of all those who had died. You hear Kaiden’s (and Ashley’s, I assume) voice during the nightmare sequences, so it would have been a nice transition for Shepard’s regrets to be literally thrown in his face like that.

Plus, I don’t really like the whole idea of adding in someone that brand-new at this stage anyway – Kai Leng seems to have an unjustifiable amount of hatred for you considering you’ve never met him, and the only method the game has to try and balance it out is via Anderson, as in the book Ascension (which is where Kai Leng comes from), it’s pretty much Anderson vs. Kai Leng.

* The Citadel – is no one going to ask how the Citadel was attacked, taken over, and then physically moved across the galaxy to earth in the space of what could only be a few hours?

* Limitations of the Formula – It’s sad, but in some cases the formula for the franchise – i.e. the decisions that have far reaching consequences – seems to have limited them slightly when it comes to the first game. A lot of time is given to Liara, and Kaiden/Ashley, as they were always going to be in the third game. However other characters get proportionately less time, with the odd exception of Garrus who gets a truck load of time – but then I think its set up so that it’s highly unlikely that he dies. Even Kaiden/Ashley’s screen time gets dramatically reduced after the Cerberus Coup (assuming you’re not romancing them), as it’s possible for them to die during the coup. With all these different combinations, Bioware obviously had to choose carefully where to devote resources, but in some pits it’s disappointing how little there is. (Wrex for example, despite being there from the beginning, doesn’t get much time. Tali, who was my romance option, didn’t get as much time as I thought she would) Speaking of screen time…

* Legion – He remains one of the best and most interesting characters in the series, and it’s a shame he couldn’t have done more. Like ME2, Legion appears late in ME3, and whilst to be fair he’s there right up until you finish the Quarian segment, I still wished we’d had more time with him. His mission where you infiltrate a Geth server (i.e. go into cyberspace) is, like Operation: Overlord, one of my favourite missions. It’s different and interesting, much like Legion himself (itself, whatever).

* The Crucible – smelled of Deus Ex Machina from the moment I heard of it and given the context of the ending (what it is now, what it could be etc…) its very existence doesn’t even make sense.

I’ll think I’ll stop there for now – I’m rambling and in danger of not making much sense myself. You get the idea I hope, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Bioware’s next move is.

Oh… spoilers, by the way.