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Default Mass Effect - Nitpicks #1 @ Twenty Sided

January 12th, 2009, 22:51
Twenty Sided continues on from their Mass Effect First Impressions with of a list of "complaints, issues and little grievances". This first part covers dialogue and interface issues:
In the past, dialog-driven games have offered you a bunch of possible answers and left you to read each and every one of them, looking for what you want to say. This is a lot of pointless skimming if you’re just looking for the one that boils down to, “How much will you pay me for killing ten rats?” This breaks the flow of conversation, and all that prose eats up a ton of screen real estate. Mass Effect has a much better system, where you’re offered a very short summary of your answers, and the option to select it appears while the other person is still speaking, letting you get your answer ready before it’s your turn to talk. When it works right it provides a smooth conversation with lots of options that doesn’t require a lot of reading and doesn’t obscure the visuals. You choose your intent and tone, and the dialog flows naturally. Wonderful.
But there are places where the summary doesn’t match what you actually say, and others where the tone isn’t at all clear. When I see the option to say, “What do you want?”, I can’t be sure if my character is going to say, “Can I help you, sir?”, or, “What do YOU want, anus-face?” They’re usually arranged in order from “nice” to “jerk”, but there are still times where you still can’t figure out what’s going to come out of your mouth when you hit the button. And there are plenty of rail-roadish moments where all of your possible responses are variants on the same stupid question or offensive remark.
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January 12th, 2009, 22:51
I do hate mini-games in RPGs. To me, RPGs are about the character and not about you. It's my character with his 75 skill in lockpicking who's picking the lock, not me! I'm ok with minigames that the character is actually playing (like card games), but not stupid abstract representations of what's going on.
About the inventory, well, yeah, it sucked.
I have more gripes about ME, like it's more a shooter than a RPG, but that's another thing. I'm not really looking forward to playing that sequel.
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January 13th, 2009, 02:18
I enjoy mini-games as long as they are an abstract representation of what's going on such as lockpicking in Fallout 3 and as long as they are fun and well done — this helps with immersion and gives more variety to the game. Mass Effect was a great game and I'm really looking forward to playing that sequel although there were several areas in which the game could be improved such as the inventory system.
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January 13th, 2009, 04:06
I like mini-games … sometimes. I didn't get to the point with Mass Effect that I did with Dungeon Lords where every frickin' thing was locked …

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January 13th, 2009, 07:27
I don't really care one way or the other about the minigames in Mass Effect. They don't bother me, but they don't make me leap with joy either.

As for the dialogues - the "press an attitude, get a random answer" thing worked pretty well in Bard's Tale. However, the scenario the author described is a frustrating one (both in Mass Effect and Bard's Tale): Getting a response that is simply nowhere along the lines of what you wanted to say. Especially when you end up insulting someone despite using the "polite" response (upper right in the dialogue wheel).
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January 13th, 2009, 08:29
My largest complains about Mass Effect are the terrible inventory system, the cheap "middle part" and the dumbed down dialogue system.

The Inventory System is really one of the worst I have seen in modern history. I have tried to compare it with older games but yet haven't found an inventory system more frustrating than ME. First of all it's dumbed down from previous bioware titles such as KOTOR. It lacks the amount of inventory slots the old one did, and basically "more damage = better". Optional ammunition was pretty much a choice between "bonus dmg vs organics" and "bonus damage vs machine". Selling off useless stuff had the problem that to be able to get a good overview of what you had in your inventory you pretty much needed an extra notepad. I was keeping a copy of my inventory on my laptop because scrolling through a looong list to do stuff like finding the three highest-damage "bonus dmg vs organics" boosters took a lot of jumping back and forth. If I only wanted 3 (one per character), and I had like 2xIV 3xIII and 1xII (meaning I should keep 2xIV and 1xIII) and then I had to browse back and forth to find them all, complicated further by stuff changing names at higher levels.

Then we have the Middle Part as I call it, where Bioware wanted to copy Oblivions terrible scaling system, offering us with a "great amount" of generic, computer generated design, which you quickly realized was just the same stuff over and over again. Yes, it made the game significally longer, but the game would have also been significally better for me if they just skipped that part entirely. Computer generated design does not equal and will never equal real man-made design, the one that made previous bioware titles so great. The only exception to that I ever saw was Space Rangers II.

Finally, the Dumbed Down Dialogue Design, where the game pointed out "reply this if you are nice" and "reply this if you are rude", so if you wanted to pump paragon points you could in theory macro through all your dialogues. The game mostly skips the greyzone, which really means that the only two options of character development you got is "black or white". There are no choice between "discipline/code" vs "freedom/pragmatic" like the chaos/law system of D&D. There are no other great questions debated, except for a minor quest regarding amniocentesis.

Furthermore, neither black or white fits the role that the game wants you to have as the captain of Normandy. The paragon are willing to break code and waste resources to be the ultimate "nice guy to every one, including villains" on the edge of being blue-eyed and naive. The renegade put up a psychotic explosive bipolar behavior that wouldn't made him/her trusted by anyone, yet they end up with the trust to be "last hope of humanity". The dialogue choices also run with Christian ethics on sexuality meaning being "bad" leads to more sex and being "good" means refraining from sex.

There's very little in terms of moral choices and deep philosophical questions in ME. This isn't Planescape Torment. It isn't Mask of the Betrayer. It's a streamlined sci-fi game with an interesting story and a decently fleshed out world, but gameplay itself sucks.

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January 13th, 2009, 15:14
Well,the inventory system do suck.Because ME is a console game,the UI is console originated,so not PC friendly。Most of the games which are PC version of a console game have a bad UI for PCgamer,like FO3,KOTOR,TES4,etc.
The combat system is no good enough,due to the same reason stated above.

"Mass Effect has a much better system, where you’re offered a very short summary of your answers, and the option to select it appears while the other person is still speaking, letting you get your answer ready before it’s your turn to talk. When it works right it provides a smooth conversation with lots of options that doesn’t require a lot of reading and doesn’t obscure the visuals."
Well ,i agree.But it is a pity Bioware cant write a good story and a good dialogue.
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January 13th, 2009, 16:49
KOTOR had a great inventory system. FO3 and TES4 was ok really. ME wasn't even good as a console inventory system…

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January 13th, 2009, 17:40
Which KotOR? I guess the 2nd one.
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January 13th, 2009, 19:35
Originally Posted by Gorath View Post
Which KotOR? I guess the 2nd one.
The first one as well. It was as advanced as Baldur's Gate, except for the party inventory (which I prefer really)




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An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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January 13th, 2009, 20:56
You've got to be joking. All 20 slots are immediately visible in the BG inventory, while you can only see 5 slots in KotOR in a list that scrolls into infinity, just for starters.

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January 13th, 2009, 22:31
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
You've got to be joking. All 20 slots are immediately visible in the BG inventory, while you can only see 5 slots in KotOR in a list that scrolls into infinity, just for starters.
And of all RPG's you find that enough to count KOTOR's inventory system to the bad ones?

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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January 14th, 2009, 03:39
I thought KotOR's was reasonable.

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January 14th, 2009, 04:05
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
The first one as well. It was as advanced as Baldur's Gate, except for the party inventory (which I prefer really)

Other than the graphics, most of KotOR was a step backwards when compared to Baldur's Gate imo.
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January 14th, 2009, 07:47
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Other than the graphics, most of KotOR was a step backwards when compared to Baldur's Gate imo.
Care to point out details? The story wasn't. The story was one the better in PCgaming history including one of the most memorable twists in a computer game. The companions was also well written without exceptions.
Speaking of inventory it carried over most what the old games had, including improvements. It's also one of the few cRPG's in which customizing your own weapon was both required and really added to the character. Compared with Mass Effect, Mass Effect looks like a kiddiegame.

The only thing worse with KOTOR as far as I concern was the 2 companions at a time limit.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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January 14th, 2009, 09:17
those must be some nice rose coloured glasses ay JemyM? you must be a star wars fan to think that kotor, which took a known mythology versus mass effect which came up with it own was somehow a better sci-rpg. i have no favourite bioware rpg myself and see flaws in all of them why enjoying them all for their strengths as well. kotor 1 was much more shallow in my opinion and had the exact same feel of the all characters except in kotor they were more shallow and more anoying. kaiden not only sounded like carth but behave the exact same way. kotor 2 was an improvement in that regard though (thank you obsidian) for having a pretty swell companion/influence system and was altogether much less "juvenile" or pseudo-christian to parapharse you. and although i'm no christian myself i don't think that is necessarily a proper distinction since 99% don't follow that willings to sacrafice model that emodies the christ ethos and certain games try to rudely immitate. personally i think the dialog system was a creative exercise and the "not knowing" is a beautiful element which is obvious bashed for peoples lack of humility and unwillingingness to want anything but complete control of there actions. flaws and uncertaintanty ARE reality—perfect similuation and choices are fantasy.

oh lets not forget jade empire. was that not more consolized/streamlined in everyway? i praise mass effect's writers again for not putting some "ohh what a twist" in that game like the others.

oh JemyM i'm also not trying to single you out. personally i don't think the bauldr's gate games are hot stuff myself as back when they came out i played the trial version and have picked up the set in the past few years but i'm not a fan of the infinity engine or isometric for that matter. top down or crappy tecture 3-d or possibly even bard's tale style…

maybe i'll playthem but i'd rather save the motivation for planescape torment which i hope to someday focus on.
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January 14th, 2009, 09:31
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Care to point out details?
The only thing worse with KOTOR as far as I concern was the 2 companions at a time limit.
I could point out plenty. Cutting the party size down to a trio was just the beginning, although that was a major complaint, and a bad decision in most peoples opinion. The enemies were also down-sized as well. Rather than being able to battle dozens of enemies at once, the most I ever recall fighting in KotOR was 5-6 at a time. Exploration was also cut down in a big way. Almost all the levels in KotOR were very small and linear. The variety of inventory was much smaller as well, ie: less types of weapons, armor, accessories, etc. It seemed as if everything had to be smaller to support their fancy new graphic engine.


The story was one the better in PCgaming history
Definitely a matter of opinion.
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January 14th, 2009, 09:42
I love both KotOR 1 and 2. In fact, they're among my all time favourite RPGs. However, the inventory system is not better than any other console port. Mass Effect has a very similar system (for every "slot" you select, you get a list of all items you currently have to fill that slot).

Both ME and KotOR has a fairly clumsy interface compared to PC RPGs. I wouldn't rate one over the other, they're both "on the cutting edge of average", as Doug put it (King of Queens).
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January 14th, 2009, 09:55
Stories based on a popular IP usually fails, so being a popular IP is no advantage at all when it comes to storytelling. This have nothing to do with the IP setting. In fact, I found even Jade Empire to be more fleshed out when it came to the companions at least. Jade Empire failed to live up to it's philosophical introduction to Closed Fist/Open Palm though, and it was also a step down when it came to the overall character development / inventory system. In that regard it was a prequel to ME.

ME had a good central story. The companions, when compared to KOTOR or Baldur's Gate II was a step down, even if it still left traces of Bioware quality. I fulfilled everything all compansions had to offer in all three games and in the case of ME, some of the characters were frustratingly underdeveloped. Nali had an excellent buildup for something great, but that turned out to be simply dialogue. Kaiden and Ashley ended up as your usual "no talking personality" grunt with no real secrets. I remember that Ashley was christian, conservative and an alien racist, and having such character traits is ok with me, as long as it's more about it, but in her case there never was. I know those two are set up as romantic interests, but they could have been less shallow. I found Wrex and Garrus to be more developed. Unfortunally the peak of their story came out as those middle-game missions that felt like copy/paste all over. I liked the event with Wrex and it's possible outcomes though, that was really well set up. Finally, the only character that was really integrated in the main story was Liara.

I disagree that the KOTOR companions were shallow. I still remember specific personality traits several years later as well as bits of their background story. I remember that every character grew with the main plot, several of them were tied directly to the main storyline. If you pumped them enough you were able to unlock their secret before the game was over and most of them had one, with a twist in it's own. There were companions that were annoying, but that is a BONUS in my book, considering being annoying is a character trait. I liked the fact that Bastilia had opinions. I liked that Mission Vao was a teenager and behaved like it. I liked Jolee's grumpy "youre too young and I am too old" whining, it made the relationship between the characters more realistic. I rather have "in your face" companions than AI-driven tools that only speak when they are told (I happened to like Jaheira as well). Sure, no game is perfect, but I can honestly not come up with many examples of games with companions as deep and well-written as KOTOR1.

Baldur's Gate I was not a masterpiece when it came to companions, but it was one of the first game I know of that tried. BG2 made a great improvement in that regard and each of the companions you could get was fleshed out enough to write a short novel about them.

Now I wrote a whole post on companions that started out as a complaint regarding inventory mechanics/the dialogue system and the streamlined content. It's your fault.

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January 14th, 2009, 10:11
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Rather than being able to battle dozens of enemies at once, the most I ever recall fighting in KotOR was 5-6 at a time.
KOTOR wasn't a hack & slash dungeon basher.

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Exploration was also cut down in a big way. Almost all the levels in KotOR were very small and linear.
KOTOR followed the BG2 formula in that regard, which have been standard ever since. In both Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights II, Mask of the Betrayer and Mass Effect this "moving between minor areas" formula is repeated. The middle part of ME tried to be a cure of this but failed. Storm of Zehir is the first attempt to move back into a more free-roaming landscape. I wouldn't note that issue in a thread that complains over a game with the same flaw. Try to compare Baldur's Gate I with the middle part of ME if you like to debate free exploration.

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
The variety of inventory was much smaller as well, ie: less types of weapons, armor, accessories, etc. It seemed as if everything had to be smaller to support their fancy new graphic engine.
In BG the majority of the items didn't show up on the character at all. I remember that being a key issue to not allowing dualwielding in BG1. BG1 being a classical dungeonbasher of a popular IP had all the equipment types that is traditional to fantasy games; rings, amulets, arrows, armour, helmets, shields etc. Sci-Fi games rarely have that range of items and there are some reasons for this. First one is the lack of magic items, then in most Sci-FI IP's Armour doesn't stop blasters.

So what did KOTOR do? Bioware did invent several things to make the system deeper than what the SW IP really allowed. First up, KOTOR had item customization, BG1 didn't. KOTOR added Personal Shields which was a mechanic in it's own. Finally KOTOR added visors and implants that gave a wider range of customization. Also KOTOR had an above average amount of Armours for a sci-fi/modern rpg. In fact, I cannot come up with any rpg based on a modern/sci-fi world that had that wide range of armours.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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