Dear BioWare, About Mass Effect Andromeda

In which I pen an heartfelt letter to my old flame about rekindling our love affair.


(Originally posted on

Hey guys, it’s been awhile. What can I say, the ending was rough. We both said things we didn’t mean, but don’t for a second think that means I ever stopped loving you.

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about Mass Effect Andromeda and I felt like I needed to let you know that I’m glad you’re moving on. It’s been a bumpy road and we’ve lost some people along the way, but maybe this could be the fresh start we both needed? Here’s the thing though, for this to work there’s a few things I’m gonna need you to keep in mind.

Click here to read the rest


Konami drops Six Days in Fallujah, Lack of Testicular Fortitude to Blame


In a surprisingly chicken shit move, Konami has decided it will no longer be publishing Atomic Games’ controversial title. Six Days in Fallujah was going to be an ambitious action game that took players inside the second battle of Fallujah that occurred in late 2004. Endorsed by former marines who had served in the conflict and aspiring to show players what it was really like to be involved in the battle, from the eyes of marines, insurgents and civilians, the game showed real promise.

It seems that in the planning stages for the game it had never occurred to Konami that the idea of basing a game on a war that was still ongoing might generate a bit of controversy. Or perhaps it did, but they didn’t anticipate the extent of it.

Veterans and families of fallen soldiers all chimed in to immediately demonize the game based entirely off its premise and setting. They seemed to be oblivious to the fact that war games already exist as their reasons for demanding a ban on Fallujah typically cited that having a game based on war automatically meant trivializing the lives lost and brutality of battle.

While writing a book or making a movie based on these events wouldn’t be considered trivial, video games still fall into that murky territory of not being a real media outlet in the minds of many consumers.

It seems like all the controversy finally got to Konami who told Japanese newspaper Asahi, “After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it.”

The third-person shooter was due for release on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in 2010. No word yet if Atomic Games will seek another publisher for the title, but hopefully they will see this project through. I honestly believe that if done correctly this title could do a lot to further the way video games are viewed as an entertainment medium. If only Konami had as much faith in the future of their business as I do.

Written for Scrambled Pixel on 4/27/09.

Those about to die: Woodland Creatures


As some of you have found out, I’m an MMO player. That’s right, I buy a game so I can pay for the privilege of playing it every month. Now, this article isn’t about MMO’s or monthly fees, but since I’m currently hobbiting my way around Middle Earth, I’ve noticed a common trend in RPG’s that pertains to this month’s theme and I thought I’d share it with you all.

So for those of you who’ve never jumped on the MMO bandwagon, sit back, relax and allow me to take you through the epic journey you are missing out on. Those of you who have played MMO’s are free to sit back and nod knowingly you’ve been there and done this more often then you’d like to admit.
LOTR starts off in standard MMO fashion, with the creation of your character. After all, the world does in fact revolve around you, at least for now. Once you’ve made your Middle Earth self and selected an appropriate name that fits the world (Ilovewaffles) you are ready to set off on your adventure through perhaps one of the most acclaimed story worlds in all of fantasy literature.

Once you’ve blundered your way through the tutorial mission, vanquishing whatever minor villain the game lovingly placed in front of you and crippled so badly that you had no chance of losing, it’s time for the real game to start.

As you take in your majestic surroundings you notice a nearby NPC with a glowing ring over their head. Ah ha! Quest giver! Now the game can really start. Now you can test your skills against the forces of Sauron’s army, destroy the one ring, save the world, get lots of dwarven chicks, ect. This is your story to tell and by God you will do it justice.

I’m sorry, but your princess is in another castle

As you move your mouse over the NPC you take a deep breath, pausing in silent contemplation. Are you really ready for this? Can you really stand alone against the tides of swarming baddies that are surely sharpening their weapons and plotting your demise?

Yes, you decide, now its time to battle the dark forces and bring righteousness back to this world. You right-click the NPC and read your first non-tutorial quest.

Kill wolves.

Okay, not quite what you were expecting. Weren’t there some bandits guarding the road nearby? Well, okay I guess even the mightiest warriors have to get their start somewhere. I’ve always been a fan of wolves and would prefer avoiding them over having to kill them, but you don’t want to look like a sissy in front of the elves. So, you kill the wolves, loads of them in fact.

As you make your way back to the quest giver, coated in conspicuous amounts of blood and fur, you prepare yourself yet again for a quest truly worthy of Tolkien’s epic story. Perhaps a little Nazgûl action?

Now there’s a real monster.

Kill Boars.

Kill Bears.

Kill Spiders.

And so on. Now, to be fair there are occasional “Kill Bandits” quests peppered in as well, but these guys are small potatoes compared to the big picture, so what gives? If the quest givers are to be believed the animals are posing a serious threat to the towns and cities you are visiting. If their cuddly frolicking goes unchecked countless residents will suffer the consequences. Add in to this the fact that your paltry skill level leaves you unsuited for any true combat and you find yourself with little choice, but to take on the local animal population.

Nice puppy

Now in some RPG’s they have the courtesy to create “monsters” for you to battle. Oddly deformed and unusual critters that you encounter on your travels. Sometimes there is no avoiding these monstrosities as you cannot see them until they have already sprung up to attack you and your party. While these random encounters can be tedious they also serve to build your animosity and desire to kill the beasts that continually attack you. They pose a real threat to you and anyone who ventures outside the city walls.

Kill it with fire!

What about the animals? In MMO’s it’s usually possible to avoid all, but the rabid and zombified variety by just walking around them or outrunning them as the need arises. They don’t mean any harm, they just want to be fuzzy and lead unspectacular lives of animal mediocrity. Not only are they wholly unaware of your great quest to put an end to evil, they remain completely neutral on the subject. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that not only will you kill them, you must kill them.

She’s only protecting her cubs you heartless jerk.

If you take a PETA loving carebear approach, refusing to kill these helpless animals you won’t be able to grind to a high enough level to be effective against real enemies. If you skip on all the quests that order the destruction of snuggly kitty cats you will miss valuable experience points and better gear. The spiders and snakes you face may not be evil, but they sure as heck are in your way. Your way is the only way that matters after all.

So lets take just a moment to think back on all the woodland creatures that have been felled by our blades, burned by our magic and maimed by our lutes. When the day is won and we stand on the battle grounds of Mordor, let us not forget the noble creatures who gave their lives so that we could grow to be true champions. Here’s to you woodland creatures, big and small, your sacrifice was the greatest of all.

You laughed too, admit it.

Featured on the front page of Destructoid on 4/25/09.

Konami’s “Six Days in Fallujah” Announced

Konami recently announced that they will be partnering with game developer Atomic to put together a game based on the conflict in Fallujah which claimed the lives of 38 soldiers and 1,200 insurgents. The core narrative of the game will be drawn from video, photos and first hand journal accounts of troops who were involved in the conflict.

Rather then wade through the murky political right and wrong debate that surrounds the ongoing war, Atomic hopes to lend the game more towards historical insight and focus more on the stories of those who experienced the fight first hand.

“Our goal is to give people that insight, of what it’s like to be a Marine during that event, what it’s like to be a civilian in the city and what it’s like to be an insurgent.” Atomic Games president Peter Tamte said.

More then a dozen Marines will be featured, telling their stories, as part of a series of documentary style interviews. The scenes will be triggered through game play as the player encounters the men’s in-game avatars.

While I’m not much a fan of war games, (stemming from a FPS deficiency rather then an ideological mandate), this seems like a very interesting and ambitious project for Konami. With actual U.S. Marines serving as consultants on the game the details and emotions Atomic is planning to incorporate will be under the highest level of scrutiny before any game reviewers ever get a taste of the action.

Still, there is a reason that so many war games tend to stick to the tried and tested stomping grounds of WW2. Playing a game about a war that people are still dying in could leave a bad taste in the mouths of some players. Also, people rarely sympathize with Nazi’s.

As expected there has been some rustling of feathers over Konami’s plans with a few military members going so far as to publicly denounce the game and seek to have it banned.

I suppose only time will tell if Konami’s gambit pays off. The game has the opportunity to either be a moving depiction of war and those who fight, or an uncomfortable thorn prying into a wound that hasn’t been given enough time to heal.

GamePolitics reports that the game will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. A multiplayer component is rumored to also be in the works.

Written for Scrambled Pixel on 4/8/09.

That one Mook: Mr. Yamada


My selection of completed games or even nearly completed games being rather small has left me with a shameful admission, I don’t have much experience with game bosses. I’ve heard tales of their ueber greatness, their near god-like prowess, and most of all the nightmares they spawn when no matter what you do you just can’t beat them.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Kenichi Yamada, and I’m willing to bet just about everyone fits into this group, let me tell you a little about the man who would become my great adversary.

Mr. Yamada is a family man who enjoys spending the summers at his vacation home with his wife and daughter. His job is a stressful one and he finds flower arranging to be a wonderfully relaxing past time. Nothing can sway his sunny disposition, except me.


You see in this game I’m a mosquito and it has been made perfectly clear that I only have a short amount of time to gather enough blood to last me through the hard winter months ahead. If I fail in my mission it will mean my doom. As such I can hardly be blamed for my actions.

I became acquainted with the family, though at first they didn’t know I was there. A fly on the wall so to speak, I listened in on their conversations, their petty arguments and their planning. In a weird way I felt that I too was part of their family. As such surely they wouldn’t mind if I took some of the sustenance that I so desperately needed.

I started off small, only taking a tank or two of any of their blood at one time. While the girl and the mother seemed to find me a bit of a nuisance I noticed that Mr. Yamada had taken an especial disliking to me.


As time wore on I realized I’d need to take more blood if I wanted to make my quota in time. By now the family had decided something must be done about me. I felt betrayed, I just wanted to live and prosper as they did. Wasn’t my life worth the slight itchy inconvenience that I caused? Apparently not and a series of battles ensued.

I met with the daughter first, she had come prepared for a showdown. My shaky flight controls and tendency to collide with invisible geometry hindered me greatly in the battle. Still, I realized this was what the game had been preparing me for from the beginning. I managed to out maneuver her and make off with the necessary blood to secure my victory.

Next up was Mrs. Yamada, a formidable opponent to be sure. It took several attempts before I was able to see her go down. My confidence was bolstered by this point, what more could they throw at me? What obstacle couldn’t I overcome?

I never expected Mr. Yamada to answer the call so fiercely. Driven to rage by the state of his family, still ignorant to my plight he prepared himself for the final showdown.

I readied myself and took flight, zooming around to get a better view of his weak spots, but where were they? Suddenly he spotted me and the battle began. I found his pressure points, but as I was about to dive for them something unexpected happened. The Kenichi Yamada I’d watched arranging flowers and idly flipping channels from the comfort of the couch vanished. In his place was Dragon ball Yamada.


I felt my confidence shatter instantly as he powered up his super attack. Until this time I wasn’t aware such attacks existed in this game, but there it was, an energy ball bent on my destruction. I tried to swerve, tried to fly lower and higher, but it was no use. No matter where I went or how fast I dodge he found me, over and over.

My fingers grew sore and calloused on the duel joystick controls as I became increasingly erratic in my flight. The quirky level geometry that I’d thought I’d become used to now openly mocked me as I ricocheted off of walls and furniture, certain I’d never been close to it. All of the elements that had given the game such a steep and uncompromising learning curve suddenly made sense. It was all a cruel setup to make me think I had a chance.

There was no safe place to be found as Yamada rampaged after me. I’d restarted so many times, yet my efforts were entirely futile. There was no weakness in the man, the game was on his side and I would not live to see another summer.


It’s a funny thing when you are resolved in your failure. When you know you’ve given it all you can and that the only thing left to do is to stand up so you can be struck down one last time. Once your death is imminent there is no longer reason to fear it and without that fear comes a certain clarity.

That’s the only way to describe where my second wind came from, somewhere deep inside of me shouted that if I was to die then Yamada was going down with me.

His fist swung, ogre-like and seemingly slower then before as I casually dodged it and rammed right into his pressure point. He was caught off-guard for a moment and I used the time to loop myself over his shoulder and hit the second point. Shaken, he began gathering energy for his power attack, the unsurvivable one that had hitherto sent me running for cover.

I knew better then fall for that this time. There was no more running away, there was no place safe to run to, this was going to end now.

In the slow motion aftermath as the lights blurred and Yamada fell I dropped the controller, my hands throbbing from the tricky stick work I’d just performed. Somewhere in the back of my head I think I heard singing, though it could have been the onset of a headache. The title screen came up again, inviting me to play the coveted second season, that was basically the whole game over again, but with the bonuses I’d won this time around. I reached for my PS2 and turned it off.

I never played the game again. Maybe I will someday, its one of the few games that is short enough that even I can finish it, but perhaps it would be better to just hold onto my hard won victory. I don’t have many, and Kenichi Yamada was a worthy opponent until the end.

Written for Ckarasu’s community contest, which I won. Originally posted 4/6/09 on Destructoid.

Expanded Universes: The rise and fail of fan-fiction


So far, we’ve seen some great articles dealing with the many diverse and exciting incarnations of expanded gaming universes (fair warning, this won’t be one of them). We’ve had a fine sampling from movies, cartoons, books, and edutainment venues. But one growing part of the expanded world has been sorely overlooked and since nobody else wants to get down and messy with the dry-heave inducing media in question, I guess its up to me to bring you; Expanded Universes, the Fan-Fiction edition (Shipero totally sniped me, but I’m posting this anyway).

Let me start off by saying, I don’t finish many games. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing games, exploring new worlds and meeting fun and interesting characters. But generally, after playing something compulsively for a few weeks, I’ll take a day or two off to attend to the petty concerns of real life and, typically, I don’t find my way back. If I do, its usually been so long that I have no idea what I was doing, or how to play anymore, so all progress is lost and I start over. It’s a vicious cycle, but lets move on.


Fortunately, there is a wondrous thing called the Internet. Finally, I was able to get the story behind the games I loved, even though I hadn’t finished them. Granted the walk-thrus and synopses weren’t always the best source for finding out why something had happened or even what the outcome was, but it was enough that I could at least reach some resolution to the story I’d started. It got to a point where when I found a game I was interested in, I’d just read about it, not bothering to even buy it. This lead to my addiction to following game walk-thrus verbatim and not actually playing any games for myself for a few years (that’s a blog for another day).


At some point the avid reader in me matured a bit and realized that I was no longer content with “kill the boss and save the world, game over” explanations anymore. I wanted to find out what Harry Mason was thinking while he explored Silent Hill, why Zelda was always needing some kid to rescue her, and what kind of hair gel Seifer used (okay, maybe not so much the latter). I really just wanted to get more out of the story, find out what made these people tick and why they did the things that subsequently lead to them either saving or destroying their worlds. It was on my mission for truth that I stumbled into the serpents pit lovingly called, fan-fiction (remember this is an article about fan-fiction).

In theory, this was the answer to all my prayers. Finally a place where anyone who was a fan of a game could give their take on the story, or even create whole new stories and worlds with the characters everyone knew and loved. It seemed so perfect that I can hardly be blamed for falling for its guise. How was I to know that lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly happy and tranquil utopia was some of the worst story writing and cringe worthy match-ups the Internet has to offer?


Yes I was young then, but I’ve learned a few things about why fan-fiction has gotten such a bad rep and I’m going to share these things with you. First and foremost:

There are no straight guys in fan-fiction.

(I wish I could tell you guys I didn’t already have this pic on my hard drive.)

Really, none. No matter how macho and tough your favorite game character is, there is a fan-fiction somewhere where he is a limp-wristed sissy who only wants to be loved by every other male character in the game. Now, I enjoy fictitious male-on-male action as much as the next girl, but I have to admit, I was pretty shocked to see that there were no limits to how far-fetched the fan-fiction writers were willing to be in their attempt to ship their favorite paring. Even in the stories where a male and female character are the main pairing there is always at least a hint of bisexuality swimming just beneath the surface. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the story, (though usually it is the story), there will be some awkward groping sessions and a “we’re friends and friends do that kinda thing so lets not be ashamed” discussion dropped in there somewhere.

Did I mention that anyone can write fan-fiction?


Oh yes, anyone and everyone. There are no rules or regulations (or grammar) to be concerned with. There are ridiculous amounts of angsty, emo, abusive drama fics, as well as fluffy “OMFG so random” pieces. There is no standard of acceptance here so even the most lack luster would-be author can churn out their own little gem that twists and corrupts entire game worlds. Quick example for the folks playing at home:

Viewtiful Joe
“Joe must defat the demon lord who has captured Blue and Silvia. He may need some help from an unexpected aquaintence, though.”

A fire started it all
“Orphan Kim, has never liked Pokemon. Because berserk Fire Pokemon killed her parents. On her 10th birthday, her decision will change. When she visits Prof. Rowan, her starter turns out to be a Magby, the Fire type. OC’s gladly accepted. Please R&R”

It’s not enough to control the world, the writers want to live in it as well. The vast majority of the plot of fan-fictions stems from the writers wanting to tell everyone about their experience in the game, but as if the game were real. This leads to a metric ton of bad to mediocre “OMG I’m in Kingdom Hearts and I’m also the new keyblade master. Also, all the guys are like totally in love with me, OMG” stories.

There should seriously be an entire section devoted to these atrocities of imagination. If it were possible for ideas to have abortions, the result would be these type of fan-fictions.

But what about the good fan-fiction?

Okay, so not all fan-fictions are terrible. I’ve read some good stories by people who actually were decent writers, but you know what? As long as they write fan-fiction they will never be good writers. This isn’t a knock against those who write fan-fiction (I’m guilty of it), its just an observation. Being good at writing fan-fiction (to quote that guy from Waiting) is like being the smartest kid with downs. When your only competition is the worst writers in middle school, you’re stories are pretty much the best by default. Don’t think that the shallow words of encouragement and praise that flood the comment section are full of anything resembling actual literary criticism. Nearly all the so-called comments on the fan-fiction site are something along the lines of:

“OH! Please I wanna know more! This is so awesome! XD I really hope you update soon! ^_^ “

“I can’t wait to see more. Keep up the good work! “


So yeah you get some confidence in your writing, but at what cost to the beloved characters and worlds that are being raped by your ilk?

Is there no hope at all?

Having reached the conclusion of my rant, I feel compelled to point out that I still enjoy the concept of fan-fiction. It could be the perfect media to give me a chance to see the worlds of my favorite games from a different and often overlooked perspective. I could get more in-depth stories about characters I’ve grown to love and a better insight into their daily struggles outside of the scope of the game. However, good fan-fiction is like finding a quarter in a pile of dog poop. You know it’s there, but you have to really psych yourself up to actually dig around and look for it.

Featured on the front page of Destructoid on 4/4/09.

Digital Downloads for the ADD crowd


The BBC is reporting that a computer and video game website, Awomo, has discovered a means of allowing people to jump right in and start playing their digital download games before the download is finished. Think of it as the iTunes of the video game world.

Essentially the core files have been separated and are downloaded first which allows you to fire up the game while the remaining files sip coffee and continue downloading in the background.

This is great news for those of us who hate waiting for anything at all, ever. I would’ve thought us American’s would be the first to take the need for instant gratification in game buying to the next level, but I guess those crazy Brits are every bit as impatient when it comes to their Tomb Raider.

Though I’m not a big fan of digital downloading, Awomo site manager, John Houlihan has assured the BBC, “that will also change over time.”

He adds that the nostalgia of physically buying and owning a game is still very prevalent in the minds of many gamers, but that the future of gaming ultimately lies in digital downloading. This is good news to my media shelves, but bad news to my compulsive collecting disorder. How can I feel like I own something if it only exists in my computer? I get shaky just thinking about it.

In the meantime don’t get your hopes up too high for super-fast downloads of your entire gaming wishlist as the developers have explained that not all games can be broken up this way and the process to decide if they are possible candidates can be a bit lengthy.

I have to admit, my first thought when reading the article was that if I started downloading and playing a game that was crap I would be able to quit the download before it had fully asserted itself on my hard drive. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve wasted downloading or installing games and all their updates only to have to turn around and promptly remove them due to suckage.


Of course there was no mention in the article if you’d be able to return the unused portion of your digital download for a partial refund at digital gamestop, but I guess that technology is still a few years down the line.

Originally posted 3/16/09 on my Destructoid blog.