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Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

Glixel has published a pretty good piece on the making of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

It's almost entirely positive, featuring many "we're science geeks and we worked really hard on the world of this game for you" stories and quotes. Even so, the stories are interesting.

One thing in particular grabbed my attention, though, and that was the comment that the two-state Paragon/Renegade system had been changed to a four-state system that's more of a psychological model.

Oh, really? (dig, dig, dig)

Well, hello! I can't find anyone else talking about this, but the four dialogue modes in ME:A look to me to have been inspired directly by the four original Bartle types... which I consider to be game-context expressions of general temperament.

Here's one description I've seen of the four ME:A modes:
  • Casual: For the Ryder who likes to hang loose, crack jokes and deal out the occasional sarcastic quip. Can endear you to some characters, but more reserved individuals will bristle at your flippancy.
  • Professional: Strictly business. For the professional-minded Ryder, it's hip to be square.
  • Logical: Assess the situation dispassionately, using the facts as your disposal. You might end up hurting some people's feelings along the way, though.
  • Emotional: This option usually indicates a sympathetic, understanding, kind answer from Ryder, but it can also be used to play an impulsive or hot-headed character, depending on the situation.
These are almost instantly identifiable as the four fundamental, neurochemically-guided personality styles that show up IMO as the four Bartle types:

Casual: the Artisan/Killer (Manipulator) style, which seeks strong sensations through risk-taking and the adept tactical manipulation of people and objects.

Professional: the Guardian/Achiever style, which believes the Right Thing is to win by playing hard but within proper logistical rules and processes.

Logical: the Rational/Explorer style, which emphasizes discovery, strategic planning, and thoughtful creativity, but sometimes isn't so good at dealing with people.

Emotional: the visionary Idealist/Socializer style, which emphasizes diplomatic caring for people (including fictional characters) but doesn't always consider unintended outcomes.

I've sort-of pinged Richard Bartle to ask whether he consulted with EA/BioWare on this part of ME:A. It's possible I'm seeing a connection that doesn't exist.

In the meantime, other thoughts on this are welcome.

Edit: there's also an excellent round-table discussion with several (non-BioWare) pro animators on what goes into a massive animation job like ME:A, and what might have led to the facial animation, "crabwalking," and other visual glitches.

Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

@Flat That's a very interesting hypothesis you propose, and on the face of it I would say that it is correct. I would say that I do think this is one of the changes that I would say is good for the series, as I always found it difficult to play as a renegade as there was no advantage in doing so as paragon often led to a better outcome in the end. While I think this change is good, I feel that they really missed an opportunity to use this new psychological system to make relationships with the crew more interesting and dynamic. I think they spent so much time crafting the worlds in this game that they really missed on what attracted people to Mass Effect in the first place, which was good writing and good characters.

I'm not sure if Andromeda was an attempt to try something different before they return to a normal Mass Effect experience, or if it signals a new direction for the series. I'm hoping that the next entry bears more resemblance to what we saw in the original trilogy. I'm playing this game and enjoying it to a degree, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't disappointed me greatly. One of my main criticisms of my fellow Mass Effect fans is that they want every in game action to have massive implications, however in Andromeda I find that I don't really care what I do because the writing has not moved me to really care about these characters and I can't feel any impact from decisions that I make on the word around me. This causes me to wander carelessly, feeling no pressure to complete certain missions. Say what you will about ME2 and ME3, but I'm guessing you felt a pressure to get certain missions completed because you felt that they were important and cared about the characters involved.

To me, Andromeda feels more like an open world sandbox than a Mass Effect game, but the problem is that the sandbox is only an inch deep so you can't really do that much. Mass Effect fans were largely understanding that the restrictions in place in previous games were a sacrifice for the narrative. Andromeda seems to sacrifice the narrative for a sandbox that isn't a very good sandbox. If they would have made this sacrifice in order to give me some type of space GTA where I can do almost anything, I could have maybe got on board with it more, but it seems that they made a huge sacrifice for something that gets them little return. In my opinion, Mass Effect needs to return to the episodic format of previous entries, where each mission was like a tightly constructed TV episode where you learn new things about the characters and the world you're in.

Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

That's a very well-crafted analysis, masseffect7.

Game development is maybe one of the hardest of all entertainment forms because it's "functional art." That is, it's art in that a computer game is a creative work open to subjective interpretation. But it's "functional" art in that people come to it with particular expectations about what it's supposed to do.

So the artistic side says, "You must try to create a new thing, take risks, make something different," while the functional/commercial side says, "This isn't what I remembered! And there isn't enough of it! Broken!"

In cases like this, what I look at is intent and execution, and I try to judge those separately. I can (and I think it's important to) give BioWare credit for trying to find a new way to express the franchise, while also feeling free to respectfully but firmly say, "I don't think the execution satisfied the intent here, and here, and here, and this is why."

ME:A is really sounding like a mixed bag in these two areas. I'm probably going to have to play it at some point to see the four-tone dialogue system for myself. But I think I've been warned: keep those expectations in check.

Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

@Flat The problem with Andromeda is that it doesn't do the art side well at all. The characters aren't visually appealing (though some of the landscapes are) and the writing ranges from average, to downright awful. There are a few missions that reminded me of the old Mass Effects (i.e. the conclusion to the Drack loyalty mission) but so many others reminded me of the mindless errand-running that is all too common in open world games.

A good example of this mindlessness comes in the vaults. After doing a couple of the vaults your attitude goes from, "oh cool, I get to go into this vault" to, "let's just get this vault done with". If these vaults were going to be so important to the game, they should have made more of them rather than all of them feeling pretty similar.
Spoiler:      SHOW
Rather than having the same black cloud chase you after activating each one of them, I would have had something different happen at each vault that would maybe be reflective of the world that you are on. So, for the ice world I would have had some type of ice monster for example.

Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

Talvieno wrote:Outdated? They just explained the whole ME:A debacle - before it ever happened, and certainly before I had any idea it would happen. Very good link, Zanteogo.

Also, now I'm reading your posts in Miller's voice.
You do know it's not actually them right? ;)

Their points and information is correct though.
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Re: Mass Effect: Andromeda

@Zantego The EA one reminds me of the Washington Redskins South Park episode. But you can really see the effects of EA on BioWare. Mass Effect 1 was made before BioWare was acquired. Mass Effect 2 was mostly unaffected because it was being developed before EA got involved. Mass Effect 3 was affected, but most of the core of BioWare was around then to mitigate some of the effects. Andromeda is the result of full on EA meddling without BioWare vets to tell them to go to hell. Based on my information, it looks like only one of the main developers of the original trilogy worked on this game, and he was the guy who was largely responsible for screwing up the ME3 ending. This really shows how important maintaining a culture is at a studio. BioWare seems to have lost what allowed it to put out great games like KOTOR, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age because it has pushed away the people the helped create the culture that they used to have.

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