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Default Mass Effect - New PC Patch Coming

February 1st, 2009, 23:34
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Mass Effect is definitely more engrossing to me. Perhaps it's partially due to the rarity of space opera type RPGs, but I find the atmosphere in ME to be somewhat unique and refreshing.
Which brings me back again to surprise over your dislike of KotOR … but we don't need to explore that again

— Mike
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February 1st, 2009, 23:59
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Which brings me back again to surprise over your dislike of KotOR … but we don't need to explore that again
The key words there were "unique" and "refreshing".
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February 2nd, 2009, 00:29
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
The key words there were "unique" and "refreshing".
For many, the 'old republic' was an area just touched upon in EU stuff, and so it was nice to get to explore it more fully. So while 'Star Wars' will never be 'unique', neither is WWII, or zombies, or space in general …

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February 2nd, 2009, 00:58
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Anyway, if Bioware really didn't have any say in the deal, I apologize for suggesting that they did.
There's a fair bit of independent evidence that they had very minimal say, and the whole thing was… hmmm, how to put it politely? Corporate manoevering? The then CEO of Elevation Partners was a bloke by the name of John Riccitiello, who just so happens to share a name (and body) with the 'new' CEO of EA.

Originally Posted by Penny
I'm not entirely sure that's true. The NPD group is the primary source of sales charts seen in the media and by the public at large AFAIK, and they don't track download sales at all.
Not only do they not track download sales, they don't count subscriptions (a gigantic factor, GTA4 was the biggest 'mainstream' seller last year by some way and 2 months of WoW go way past it, profit wise), or online sales of any other type including Amazon, or any overseas sales or even WalMart, the largest retailer in the US. The NPD figures for PC are almost completely useless and every time I see a journalist refer to them I cringe.
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February 2nd, 2009, 03:32
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I was primarily basing this on the various interviews with your leads guys - Muzyka and Zeschuk (IIRC) who certainly presented this deal as a mutually desirable and beneficial one.
Ray and Greg are optimistic and enthusiastic guys who sincerely believe the best in people. I'm pretty sure they honestly see it as mutually desirable and beneficial. But it was going to happen whether they wanted it to or not.

But let's play devil's advocate for a moment. Suppose they were vehemently opposed to the buyout. Would you expect them to issue a press release saying "Yeah, we're pretty bummed about this, and though we expect the worst, we're going to hope for the best?" That sort of high school passive-aggressive stuff doesn't fly in the business world. Under EA - a publicly traded company - saying something like that would directly affect the perceived value of the company's stock. That would be, as they say, "legally actionable" by EA.

However, it still doesn't really explain why your games have made the unfortunate turn from BG/NWN/KOTOR to Jade Empire and Mass Effect.
The funny thing is, I personally see what you call the "downward slide" (and I call "streamlining") as starting with NWN. But I'm a real old school RPG'er. I sit on my porch with a cane and a C64 shouting about the kids these days and their fancy-schmancy Fallout 2. In my day, we had Wasteland, and we loved it!

Kidding aside, after every game, BW - like most companies - does a post-mortem to judge what did and didn't work. Over time, those have focused us down to a few key "pillars" and strong points that we focus on. You can Google to see how much of that is in the public domain. If something's confidential, I don't want to take the rap for spilling it. Obviously, a relatively linear, story-driven plot with Luke/Han/Vader dialogue trees are a big part of it. Bethesda does non-linear, story-light worlds, Square-Enix does (by my personal standards) animated films interrupted by turn-based strategy games. We're somewhere between the two.

My point is that the games we make today are a result of that post-mortem winnowing process, focusing down on what made the game unique and successful. When I first played KotOR and NWN (before I worked here) I was surprised at just how structurally simple they were. Like I said, I've been playing these games for 20 years. I hesitated to open locked doors in KotOR because I still expected that 10 hours down the road, that decision could bite me in the butt.

For as long as I've been here, BioWare's mandate has been to make huge, "event" triple-A titles - we don't do "The Lady With the Dog," we do "War and Peace." (Sonic Chronicles was a first experiment with "better, faster, cheaper" game design.) As graphics cards and consoles became more powerful, making a game that looks like a triple-A title became an expensive, manpower-intensive proposition.

The BW that made the Baldur's Gates was about 50 people in a run-down building infamous for its lack of air conditioning or functioning toilets. Today's BW is ten times that size, with offices in Edmonton (3.5 stories of an office tower), Austin, and Montreal - the last a small satellite studio that hires local talent to make game cinematics for the other two offices. Just think about that. We have an entire office that only produces cutscenes. That's how expensive and complicated it is to make a story-driven triple-A title for today's gamers.

Thus there's a spiral; as games become more expensive to make, each one has to sell more to break even, so they have to appeal to a broader population of gamers, so they have to lose some of their nichier accouterments. This isn't just the case with RPGs; you can see a trend of "consolization" (as some have called it) across all genres.

You could make the argument that BW made the wrong choice a long time back. That instead of making "event" RPGs, it should have continued to make titles designed exclusively for the RPG niche, like Black Isle and Troika did. You see the likely outcome of that option just from the studio names. (EDIT: Which Should not be interpreted as disrespect of those guys - I still have Fallout, Fallout 2, Arcanum, and Vampire: Bloodlines installed on my home machine.) At any rate, it's been too late to do that for many moons.

I don't know if this necessarily answers your questions. Anyway, as my sig notes, I don't speak for the company. This is all just my own musings.
Last edited by Stormwaltz; February 2nd, 2009 at 03:44. Reason: lest I give offense to the giants on whose shoulders I stand
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February 2nd, 2009, 08:05
Originally Posted by Zygo View Post
[Detail about NPD stats.]
Thanks for that clarification - the stats are even worse than I realized.

And by the way, for all my criticism of Mass Effect, going by the hours played and the enthusiasm with which they were played, ME was one of my favorite games. But I think a lot of individual components were shallow or poor, including the writing overall, several quests and the Hollywood cheesiness of the plot and plastic action figure nature of the characters as well as the paper-thin party member backgrounds. Many specific lines literally are at the eye-roll/face palm level, as far as I'm concerned.

However, that said, I think it reached some kind of gestalt, became more than the sum of its parts. Good pacing between story and action and the pacing of the action sequences themselves probably had something to do with it, as well as the sheer fun of using certain biotic powers. Plus, intially, before I got the hang of it, I died a bit in combat, and the challenge was welcome. And some quests and general moments in the game were not half bad.

I also really liked that getting achievements contributes improvements to your character instead of just increasing your gamer score. It added, to entire playthroughs, the kind of addiction "leveling up" has in general for me. Plus, I didn't hate the Mako or mind the copy/paste side worlds as much as a lot of people, although I didn't love them either.

Anyway - I just wanted to note that my opinion of the game isn't all bad. I actually bought it both for the Xbox, and then when I upgraded my PC, for the PC.

Overall, I played it like crazy, and I probably will go back to it again, at least to finish getting the PC achievements. When there are so many games I feel entirely flat or neutral about and could take or leave, ME is doing something right.
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February 2nd, 2009, 08:37
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
The key words there were "unique" and "refreshing".
But ME is just… KotOR replicated all over again with the same characters given different names, in a slightly different setting. Color me confused.

Originally Posted by Stormwaltz View Post
For as long as I've been here, BioWare's mandate has been to make huge, "event" triple-A titles - we don't do "The Lady With the Dog," we do "War and Peace."
There's something deeply ironic about comparing Bioware titles to War and Peace in any way, shape, or form.
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February 2nd, 2009, 09:16
But will this cycle of "bigger budget for AAA -> bigger sales numbers for break even -> more streamlining" ever end? Games are getting closer to the typical Hollywood blockbuster, meaning "consume, forget, move on".
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February 2nd, 2009, 09:24
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
But ME is just… KotOR replicated all over again with the same characters given different names, in a slightly different setting. Color me confused.

No need to, you already seem to be quite confused.

KotOR and ME were about as similar as vanilla and chocolate.
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February 2nd, 2009, 10:29
Originally Posted by Penny View Post
A patch = great.

Not having the kind of DLC they promised = not great.

The expectation of being able to buy more "chapters" that bridged ME1 and 2 was one reason I bought it in the first place. And so far, there's only Bring Down the Sky.

So it's not the living, serialized game I had hoped for.
I don't think they ever claimed the DLC would "bridge" the games together. IIRC the only thing they claimed was that it would introduce the bataarians.

Originally Posted by steel_wind
If I want to play ME - I'm stuck playing it on my 360 (which sounds like a leafblower under my TV when it is on from the twin 70 cooling fans, but that's another thread).
You should seriously consider installing it to the hard drive on your 360. It helps a lot with loading / texture popping and hardware noise.

Originally Posted by Penny
I also really liked that getting achievements contributes improvements to your character instead of just increasing your gamer score. It added, to entire playthroughs, the kind of addiction "leveling up" has in general for me.
Agreed. I also enjoyed the fact that all achievements are reasonably do-able. There aren't any "Kill one million Geth with your bare fists" achievements. It was the only game for my 360 that I've been able to get all achievements for, and I have a lot.
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February 2nd, 2009, 10:41
I found ME to be one of the most limited games when it came to character depth since Baldur's Gate 1. Both Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic both had a wider character range and also much more depth when you begun scratching on the surface. Sure, there were clichés, but just because you recognize a personality type doesn't mean it's without depth.

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February 2nd, 2009, 10:53
I'm probably the only guy around here that would rate both Mass Effect and Jade Empire way above NWN1. NWN1, to me, is the "worst" (which means "rather good" to any other company than BW) RPG BW has developed. Only Aribeth is even remotely interesting (hence why they brought her into KotOR, as Bastila).

Hordes of the Underdark was something of a redemption, but an add-on doesn't save the OC. To me, KotOR, JE and ME are all far better than NWN1 OC, with KotOR being not-too-far-behind BG1 and 2.

That's just my opinion, of course.
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February 2nd, 2009, 12:21
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
No need to, you already seem to be quite confused.

KotOR and ME were about as similar as vanilla and chocolate.
No, no. Then you are the one who's confused—or else delusional.

(Although, when it comes to cheap low-quality ice-cream, vanilla and chocolate are indeed not much different: both are too sweet, unpleasant, and leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. In fact, why, you are describing Bioware's games perfectly!)
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February 2nd, 2009, 14:12
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
I'm probably the only guy around here that would rate both Mass Effect and Jade Empire way above NWN1. NWN1, to me, is the "worst" (which means "rather good" to any other company than BW) RPG BW has developed. Only Aribeth is even remotely interesting (hence why they brought her into KotOR, as Bastila).

Hordes of the Underdark was something of a redemption, but an add-on doesn't save the OC. To me, KotOR, JE and ME are all far better than NWN1 OC, with KotOR being not-too-far-behind BG1 and 2.

That's just my opinion, of course.
Not the only one. I really hated NWN1 OC. I did manage to play it through; I've started it again on a few occasions just to make sure that it really is as bad as I thought, and yes, it really is. It's basically a long, boring slog through tedious fights, generic settings, and paper-thin characters. And yes, I too liked HotU a lot better. (Interestingly, with BG2 it's the other way around — the OC was great, once I got over the initial hurdles, but ToB was a long, boring slog etc. etc.)

I have to say, though, that while not *quite* as bad, ME is not much better — in all of these respects. Except the fights are much easier and therefore less tedious, although exactly as repetitive.
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February 2nd, 2009, 14:16
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
(Although, when it comes to cheap low-quality ice-cream, vanilla and chocolate are indeed not much different: both are too sweet, unpleasant, and leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. In fact, why, you are describing Bioware's games perfectly!)
Delightfully caustic, but not entirely fair IMO. Bioware does repeat itself a lot, but occasionally it pulls off its formula rather nicely. I quite liked BG2, Jade Empire, and KOTOR. NWN OC and ME, not so much.

Also, SoU and HotU didn't follow the formula at all that slavishly; the latter was in fact quite good, perhaps because it didn't attempt to be anything fancier than an exciting high-level dungeon crawl through epic and exotic locations. (OK, it did have an optional clingy elf girlfriend or two, but you can't have everything, can you now?)
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February 2nd, 2009, 14:17
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
There's something deeply ironic about comparing Bioware titles to War and Peace in any way, shape, or form.
There is the length. And the scope. Not to mention war, and, rarely, peace.

But then again, I suppose that means you could compare the telephone directory (remember those?) with War and Peace.
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February 2nd, 2009, 16:26
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
There is the length. And the scope. Not to mention war, and, rarely, peace.
Also, War and Peace - when we honestly get down to it - is really, really boring, and ends with meandering and meaningless diatribes about the nature of historical progress. I dunno, it seems like an apt comparison.

Still, there's always something funny about comparing games to films or books, but that's simply because gaming is an infant media, they can't help it.

As for the model of a company and doing it well - that's fine. BioWare has been doing the same game in different settings for years now and they really do it quite well, that much is hard to argue. And like Stormwaltz said, there's other formulaic developers out there - Bethesda has not really changed their core formula all that much since Arena, they turned Fallout 3 into a TES-like, and whatever third IP they're rumoured to have bought now, they'll turn it into a TES-like as well.

That's fine. If you get bored with it - as I do of BioWare games very, very quickly - then don't buy it, or skip the titles you reliably hear are inferior (really regret buying Mass Effect). Personally, tho', I'd go batshit insane after two titles in the studio, I can't imagine being comfortable with those constraints.

From my perspective, it's the same as with actors. An actor that can only do on part, like - say - Morgan Freeman, can never be a great actor. He can be a great character actor, and he can be a good actor overall, but an actor who doesn't diversify is not a great actor. That's what sets Troika apart from the likes of BioWare and Bethesda, to which the business consideration - for me as a consumer - is so irrelevant it's not even funny.
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February 2nd, 2009, 16:38
why the fuck did you have to pick on morgan freeman? character actor? take one of the most prominent african american actors and call him a character actor—nice. granted its just an opinion, but still a low blow. way to commemmorate black history month!
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February 2nd, 2009, 16:49
Originally Posted by curious View Post
why the fuck did you have to pick on morgan freeman? character actor? take one of the most prominent african american actors and call him a character actor—nice. granted its just an opinion, but still a low blow. way to commemmorate black history month!
I hope you're joking, but just in case you're not: by judging Morgan Freeman for his acting skill without considering the colour of his skin, I am closer to commemorating black history month than I would be if I treated him differently because he is an African American. Because that is, y'know, the definition of racism.

Off topic, tho', so enough of that. Nothing but love for Morgan, but he is a limited actor who can only play the old wise dude.
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February 2nd, 2009, 16:57
Very much doubt BN thought of Morgan Freeman because he was black. Denzel Washington, for example, is certainly black - and a much better actor than Freeman. That doesn't mean he always stars in better movies, but he's definetly a better actor.

Edit: BN beat me to it, but I'll still leave it in.

Anyhow, I personally think Troika is a perfect example of why developers like BioWare and Blizzard thrive, while Troika did not. Too much experimenting. While I will always consider Arcanum a brilliant RPG, I never liked any other game they developed. Others may feel different - that Arcanum was rubbish, and the other titles were great. There's very little consistency.

BioWare, Blizzard, Bethesda and so on have millions of loyal fans by now. Making small changes here and there to try out something new is certainly possible, but going in a completely different direction is just not an option.

However, if we can get Gothic-ish RPGs from Piranha, KotOR/BGish RPGs from BioWare, and MotB/PS:T-ish RPGs from Obsidian, I'm perfectly happy. I do enjoy trying out new things once in a while, but I leave that to the smaller developers (like PB when they released Gothic - that game blew me away 7 years ago) who still haven't found their place in the gaming industry.

Obsidian might be a bad example, considering it's a relatively young company that is currently working on titles that seem rather different (Alpha Protocol, NWN2 and Aliens), but I still keep my hopes up that one day they'll produce more MotB/PS:T-ish stuff..
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