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Setho10 Blog

When Creativity Dies

Tonight I saw Cabin In the Woods, a Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard film which puts an interesting spin on the classic Urban legend. I loved the creative energy in the film. Year after year we see dumb cabin in the woods style films. And no one ever does anything new with the idea. Yea maybe one year it is a serial killer, the next year some zombies, and hell maybe throw in a murderous family or some rapists in there. Point is, that besides who is doing the killing the story is always the same. A bunch of teenagers go to a secluded lake side cabin for a weekend off the grid. Of course the cabin turns out to be haunted and the kids are killed off one by one after skinny dipping and usually while having sex in the woods. Chances are one of them will be a virgin girl and she will die last. Probably a Jock and a Cheerleader will have a wild tryst while some stoner dude will prophesize the end of days.

Every single one of these things occurs in Cabin In The Woods. But don't let that make you think this movie is anything like the dozens of other horror movies in this subgenre. There is an incredibly unique twist on the formula that changes the entire film and manages to succeed in creating the "meta" feeling that Scream 4 failed to capture last year. Suffice to say this has to be the most creative horror movie I've seen in well over a decade. And it pairs all the horror with a solid dose of comedy. In fact I would hesitate to call this a horror movie as much as an action comedy. If you didn't get that from the marketing, don't worry, they are trying to sell the whole "unique take on the horror movie" angle and it really is unique. But don't expect to be scared. There aren't even any cheap jump scares to be found.

Really this movie does remind me of the Scream series in that it cleverly plays with genre conventions and uses those conventions to create something far more entertaining than the movies that simply blindly follow them.

Honestly I am finding that in general there are very few unique movies in Hollywood these days, even among the indie scene. I went to Apple's movie trailers page and went through three pages worth of trailers and not a single one interested me. Every single film seemed like something I had seen countless times before. It's been said that every story you could tell has already been told, but the sheer lack of creativity among the films coming out these days is just staggering. The Avengers came out this week. It's a big tentpole release but I'm finding it hard to care about even after waiting for it for over half a decade. Super heroes. End of the world. I've seen it too many times and I'm running out of reasons to see it again. This year was the first year in a long time I hadn't seen most of the films up for an Oscar. But honestly none of the films really interested me. Some seemed okay. None seemed brilliant. This has actually been true for several years now. The Tree of Life was the most interesting film of last year. Nothing else really excited me. This year I think I've seen maybe one or two movies. Again, nothing I haven't seen countless times before just in a slightly different wrapper. Hollywood has seen some great success this year after several years of dismal sales. But I can safely say I've seen less movies this year than any year I can remember. Part of that is because I have been very busy. But part of that is that I just haven't seen anything that really blew my mind away.

Anyways, please go see Cabin in the Woods and support some of the most creative people in show biz. I'll probably see more movies over the summer, but for the first time in my entire life I have to say that the film industry is boring me. And for someone who once lived and breathed movies, that is a real damn shame.

Achievement Unlocked: Game Major Completed

Yes, friends, today was my very last day in the game design major here in Chicago. I still have one more class outside of the major to take this summer before I graduate, but by and large I am done with college. Going into this final year I wondered how valuable of an experience it would be. Now on the other side I can say that I learned so much and grew so much as a designer and a person. I got to learn from some of the best in the industry, attend GDC, and make a great game that we will be releasing to you all by the end of the year. It's hard to describe to someone who has never been involved on a big project like this how great it feels to see everything come together in the end. You always hear stories of developers who spend so much time making a game they just aren't sure if it is fun anymore. I can safely say that is a very true statement. After you've played a level hundreds of times making tiny adjustments and adding minor details you lose sight of the big picture. It becomes hard to tell if what you have is good or bad. Then we had our professor play the near final build. Now this guy is an industry veteran who is a real hard line producer. He made a name for himself at Sony and Apple improving quality by basically telling everyone that they sucked until they got it perfect. Some of the best games on the Playstation received that extra layer of polish because he was in the position to send the game back to the developer (both 1st and third party mind you) and tell them it wasn't good enough. So we are all sitting in front of a computer and we hand him the game and the whole time he is smiling and laughing and enjoying the heck out of himself. It was the most damn rewarding thing I could imagine. Tomorrow we are going to be displaying the game for the world to see at Columbia College's Urban Arts Festival, Manifest. If you happen to be in the area come down to 916 S Wabash and you'll be able to see and play the game for yourself.

At the end of it all, and looking back, I am so proud of how we managed to overcome so many challenges to get the product we have now. Obviously there are still months of work ahead of us. But putting together this demo build for the end of the year really cemented our belief that the game we had was fun and that it was worth it to get this thing out on the market. So if you live near Chicago then take a day off to see the game and the other projects that our senior class worked on. If you can't make it know that this game will be available sooner than you may think. It's been an awesome year. I'm sorry my blogs have been fewer and further between these past few months, and I want to thank you all for your friendship and support. I can only hope I can make you all proud by making some great games that you really love.

Here's to the game industry. It's seen its fair share of hardships these past couple years, but I hope it can come out stronger than ever before as the economy heals and we come into a new generation. Cheers!

Black Ops

So hey they seemed to have changed Call of Duty this year. I know pretty shocking. Among the changes are a new setting, more open mission structure, a branching narrative and an improved engine. It's all pretty big stuff. The idea of a Call of Duty mission more like those seen the the Bad Company games has me at least a bit excited. I was really upset to see how ultra linear Battlefield 3 was, so having something a bit more open would be really nice. Futuristic settings seem all the rage these days which is just fine with me. The art of this game didn't really blow me away right off the bat, but at least it is different than the previous games. And a branching narrative is not something commonly seen in shooters so that seems like an interesting change as well. As for the engine enhancements, the most impressive addition is the use of ambient occlusion, and effect that allows for higher range of light and shadow brightness and provides an overall more realistically lit scene. Honestly the effect is minor at best. I'm more impressed that they managed to get it running at 60 fps speaking that even on the highest end graphics cards the effect can take a good 10 frames from your framerate if you use something high quality like in Battlefield 3. Using a low quality version can save you lost frames but the difference at that point becomes far less notable and to me it usually seems like there are better ways to use the rendering budget. But regardless of if it makes the game look any better it's still impressive that they managed to get the effect in there at 60 fps.

So color me impressed with this latest Call of Duty. Treyarch have had their ups and downs. United Offensive remains my favorite Call of Duty game, while 3 and World at War were pretty disappointing. Black Ops at the very least was the most creative effort since 4 and its good to see the studio didn't rest on its laurels this time around. What do you guys think? Excited about the new COD?

The Mass Effect 3 Ending Blog (SPOILERS)

So I know you have been waiting for this and sorry it was so long in coming, but here they are. My thoughts on the ending of Mass Effect 3. I am going to talk in specifics here about all three endings, plus the secret post credits ending and the 5000 war asset ending so if you haven't seen all of that and don't want it spoiled I'd suggest stopping right here. You have been warned.

Watching the ending to Mass Effect 3 I had a lot of conflicting feelings. Shepard either died or in the case of having a high readiness rating, was separated from his crew forever. You don't get to spend the rest of your days basking in the sun with Garrus and Joker and whoever your person of romantic interest was. No matter what choice you made the ending of Mass Effect 3 wasn't exactly happy. You saved the galaxy, but at the loss of your own life and the ability to travel the galaxy. It wasn't the usual game ending. You didn't slaughter your foes and emerge a hero beloved by all. The ending(s) presented here were far more gray, and might I argue more mature.

I think in the end the thing I will remember about this ending was that Bioware braved the wrath of fans to provide a semi-tragic open-ended ending. This series didn't end like a summer blockbuster. It wasn't a cut and dry good wins over evil, or even a perfectly tragic evil triumphs over good. It was an ending that demands more maturity from its player. Looking back over the complex choices you made throughout the game, I would actually find it pretty tragic if Bioware took the easy route and offered clear cut good and evil endings. Yea, it would have appeased the masses who don't want something this mature from their game stories. It would have let the teenagers feel their sense of power. But it wouldn't have been as good a story. For me, the best endings are the ones that aren't clear cut. After all, in real life there is rarely a right or wrong choice. And I think that is the moral of this series. There is no right or wrong choice. Every decision you make has a consequence, or more likely, multiple consequences both good and bad. It is the sign of a master storyteller when he can present you with an ending that doesn't immediately satisfy but instead makes you question your actions. And for me I sat at the end of the game and I didn't know what choice to make. And for the first time ever in a game the reason wasn't because I would have to sacrifice something to get something else. All choices left me dead and the relays destroyed. Instead I didn't know what to choose because there was no clear right or wrong answer. There was no good, neutral, and bad choice. All three options were open ended. They could lead to good things or bad things depending on how life after you made use of your gifts.

I initially was put off by this. I wanted a nice moral choice. I wanted to at least think I was doing what was best for the galaxy. But the choices weren't so clear cut this time. In the end I chose to control the Reapers. Why? I don't know. I guess it seemed like I might be able to make use of them to do good at some point in the future. It wasn't a definite choice, and Bioware bravely didn't immediately show the consequences. And personally I applaud them for that. All three endings pretty much lead to the same cutscene. And in a way I liked that. It says that your actions can't be summed up in two minutes of cinematics. Having Commander Shepard reduced to a montage would be a disservice to him and to the story that Bioware has told. Your actions are more than can be summed up in such an ending.

So in the end my initial reaction to the ending was one of disappointment. I didn't feel like I had saved the galaxy the way I wanted. But the more I think about it the more I realize that this may be the most mature ending to any game in history. All game endings up to this point have had three outcomes - You win. You lose. The story ends on a cliffhanger to prepare you for the next game. In this game you didn't win, but you also didn't lose. There wasn't really a cliffhanger. Shepard is dead. The Reaper threat has been silenced. What Mass Effect provides is an ending where you neither win nor lose. Where loose ends may be tied up but the universe lives on. It's the end of Shepard as a character, but not the Mass Effect universe as a whole. There are more strands to this thread than can be tied together in a single knot. Bioware has achieved the impossible. It has made a universe wide enough, and deep enough, that even when all characters in the universe cease to exist, that universe is still strong enough on its own to survive a whole new story.

And that is how I will conclude. The "secret" ending which shows a boy wanting to travel to the stars, seems to me to be the perfect segue into a new trilogy on the next generation. I think the greatest thing Bioware could do right now would be to show the results of Shepard's actions not in a redone cutscene but in a whole new trilogy. I want to see thousands of years down the line what Shepard's choices wrought. This may be the end of Shepard's story in a sense. But I think it is a brilliant way to start a whole new story with a new set of characters on a new generation of consoles. I don't want 2 minutes of ending. I don't even want two hours of ending. I want a whole new series worth of ending. I want to play as that boy and discover all of the races for a second time. I want to see how the Quarians merged with the Geth, or how the Turians rebuilt their planet. I want to see how my choices effect not just a couple dozen characters over the course of a couple years, but entire species over the course of millenia. That would be the ultimate ending for me. It would be the ending Mass Effect deserves and it would be the type of thing that a new generation of consoles could provide. So no, the ending of Mass Effect 3 wasn't conclusive. In a way it was the ending of one chapter of the Mass Effect universe and the beginning of another. I think we'll be meeting Shepard again, but not as a playable character. I imagine the next Mass Effect to be kind of like the second Ghost in the Shell movie. The Major (or in this case the Commander) is dead - merged with a machine. But his influence will live on and he will effect future entries both directly and indirectly. At least that is what I would do if I were Bioware.

I have high hopes for the future of Mass Effect. I can't wait to see what the next generation of consoles will allow the developers at Bioware to create. To all those who hated the ending of Mass Effect 3, I challenge you to look at this ending as not the conclusion of the entire Mass Effect universe, but the conclusion of one story arc in a universe filled with millions. Bioware has stated several times that they don't plan on abandoning the Mass Effect universe anytime soon and I'm pleased that they found a way to so solidly end this trilogy while blowing open the door for future entries. So congrats Bioware, this ending has my full approval even if it isn't as immediately rewarding as one might hope.

They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

Hey folks. I spent most of my free time this weekend playing Mass Effect 3 and I am damn near close to the end. I would say I have an hour or so to go. I already got the "This is the point of no return" speech and completed a mission after that, so I believe I am on the final mission. But I'm not one to focus on a single game and after playing so much Mass Effect I needed a breather before I went into the final mission. So with rumors swirling that Half Life 3 is going to be announced at E3 (Gamespot seems a bit behind in the news but a teaser website is up with an e3 reveal date set and the image on the site is the iconic Black Mesa logo, and Gabe Newell said they are going to announce at least one game with the number 3 in the title at E3) I thought I would play Half Life 2 and Episodes again to refresh my memory. I also was interested in seeing how the 8 year old original game holds up after all this time. So I set the difficulty to easy and ventured back into Half Life 2 for the first time in quite a few years.

My thoughts throughout the game focused on how games really strayed away from this direction at some point. Who knows why but the thoughtful shooter got replaced by the non-stop combat shooter. Half Life 2 might be called slow by some. You spend a fair amount of time solving puzzles and combat involves small encounters with a half dozen or so intelligent enemies, not epic firefights with dozens of brain dead soldiers. Games of this generation have pushed harder and harder to mimic the Hollywood blockbuster, with constant competitions to have the game with the biggest battles and most explosions. There is nothing wrong with that attitude per say. I like big explosions as much as the next guy, but Half Life 2 reminded me of a time when shooters, and games in general, weren't all like that. I can't say that one style is better than the other, but I can say that the complete absence of Valve's style of game is kind of sad.

Half Life 2 has almost no "scripting" as people like to call it. The way Valve's engine works all but eliminates the idea of having things happen in a very distinct identical way every time. Each battle is a sandbox that can be solved a number of different ways, and it is perfectly possible to skip entire fights if you know what you are doing. As I was playing there were a couple times where I wished that a battle would end in a bit more epic manner, but all in all Half Life 2 amazingly plays like nothing else in gaming. It's odd. Most successful games are aped within six months of their release. But no one has tried to make anything like Half Life 2. The mix of atmosphere, puzzle solving, exploration and combat is unique even after all these years. Playing now I can say that some of the technical aspects are a little off. The water physics and ladder climbing especially could really use work, but by and large if I didn't know any better I'd accept that this game was released just months ago not 8 years ago. The graphics engine is dated in some ways, but somehow the facial expressions are still some of the best in the business and the attention to detail just is unequaled even all these years later.

It took Valve 5 years to make Half Life 2 and it has been 5 years since Episode 2 was released. I have to wonder, if Half Life 3 is right around the corner, what will Valve have up its sleeve? Both Half Life and Half Life 2 redefined shooters, and I have little doubt that Half Life 3 will do so as well. I just hope that Valve manages to keep Half Life 3 like Half Life and not turn it into another Call of Duty clone. Playing Half Life 2 I am reminded why I loved this game so dearly when it came out. It isn't the revelation is was 8 years ago, but even after all this time Half Life 2 remains one of the best games on the market. If you haven't had a chance to play this game yet, the Orange Box is a great option. Otherwise, this game is like $10 or something on Steam and virtually any computer made in the past six years can run it. I have everything maxed out including 8x MSAA and the game still runs at a steady 60 fps. Honestly that's the only game I can say that about. Still, even with these ancient required specs the game still looks great, and in many ways it looks just as good as many games released today. So do yourself a favor and play Half Life 2. No, it isn't straight action from beginning to end. There are tons of elements in between the firefights. But those elements are what makes Half Life 2 special. The combat is still great. And as I said, it's fully AI driven combat, no scripted firefights. It's amazing that 8 years ago Valve was doing things that gamers are still clamoring for today. Half Life 2 may not be the perfect 10 it was 8 years ago, but it is still a one of a kind masterful experience that dwarfs the efforts of modern shooters and will be a breath of fresh air to anyone that hasn't played it before, or anyone who at least hasn't played it in a while. E3 can't come soon enough.

New Humble Indie Bundle Featuring Botanicula

Fan of point and click adventure games? How about games with stunningly beautiful art direction? If you answered yes to either of these questions then chances are you've at least tried Amanita Design's stunning games. Including the Samorost series, and Machinarium, the studio has a history of making games with incredible visuals and simple but touching stories. Their latest game is Botanicula, a nature themed game where a group of friends (including an acorn, twig, and seed among others) travel along a tree to try and save it from an evil army of spider like creatures. The game is simply stunning. The art direction is second to none and the world itself is just incredibly inventive and charming.

Botanicula is a point and click adventure game so don't expect action or combat. There is good news if you aren't too sure about trying it. The latest Humble Indie Bundle is entirely dedicated to Botanicula and the works of Amanita Design. For any price you can get Samorost 2 (the first is free), Machinarium, and Botanicula. Part of your contribution, as usual, can be donated to charity. So if you are at all interested in point and click adventure games, or games with amazing visuals, then get the latest Humble Indie Bundle and support this great developer and a great charity as well. Thanks!

Prey 2 Isn't Cancelled!

Well good news hit today that Prey 2 is still in development, but has been delayed out of 2012 to focus on quality issues. While I am disappointed that one of my most anticipated games of the year won't hit its target release date I applaud Bethesda for actually making the hard choice to significantly delay a game that wasn't ready for the spotlight. In light of their recent releases it is refreshing to hear the company actually care about the quality of a game they ship. Their efforts outside of their core internal studios has been shoddy at best and downright atrocious at worst. Hopefully this news is a sign of things to come from a company with a seriously spotty record as far as quality control goes.

New Year's Eve Will Rock A Little Less This Year

Today legendary television host and producer Dick Clark died at the age of 82. While Dick Clark will be remembered by many older people as the host of American Bandstand, for many people born in the 70's onward Dick Clark is if anything more famous as the host of ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. For me, every new year for as long as I can remember had one similarity. At least five minutes before midnight we would tune into ABC and watch Dick Clark bring in the New Year as he counted down the ball dropping from the top of Times Square in New York City. Even after suffering a massive stroke in 2004, Dick Clark returned to co-host the show, counting down to the New Year up until last year. Now, for the first time in 40 years, New Year's Eve won't be headlined in the US by Dick Clark. For both myself, and for millions of other Americans this news is devastating. It is the loss of an American icon and legend, a hugely talented television and record producer, TV Show Host, and all around great guy. He was a prominent figure in the television industry for over half a century and his loss shall deeply affect numerous Americans.

So RIP Dick Clark. New Years Eve will be a little less Rockin' think year. It's been a pleasure watching you for all of my life and I hope you find peace in whatever afterlife there may be.

How Your Comments Made Mass Effect 3 10x Better

Okay spoilers in this one. If you are playing the game right now I just finished Rannoch so if you played past that you are fine. Also please keep your comments limited to that point in the game for me and anyone else reading who hasn't finished the game yet.

So I want to thank all of you for your comments on my last blog. You all completely blew my mind. I wanted to describe in a bit more detail what I responded to you guys with.

So everyone who read my last blog assumed I was talking about the Tuchanka mission. The amazing thing was, I was talking about Rannoch. Why is this amazing? Because Tuchanka for me played out nothing like what I described in my last blog. I got all these comments saying that it was such a powerful moment for people, but for me Tuchanka pretty much played out as a "F*** you Salarian a******" mission. There was never any difficult choice to make or situation where things might have gone badly. Everyone on the mission wanted the Krogans to live. No one said anything about wanting them dead. The only choice came before the mission when a Salarian general asked me to betray Wrex. But why the hell would I listen to some random Salarian general who had just spent the last five hours being a complete ass to me? And likewise, there was no chance at failure. The cure went in the tower and we left. No drama. It was just a really straightforward mission. Go to tower, release cure, leave. No one tried to talk me out of saving them, or threatened me or anything like that. So I was shocked when people thought I was talking about Tuchanka. And I'm still amazed that this game was able to change so much based on my choices. Like on Rannoch there was a moment where you pretty much had to choose between sacrificing the Geth fleet or the Quarian fleet unless you had enough Renegade or Paragon points to talk them out of killing each other. That moment was fricking intense. On Tuchanka there was no argument or anything. It just happened.

So seriously to all the idiots claiming this game doesn't take your choices into account, go f*** yourself and stop playing games. You obviously don't get it. Like I don't care if this game has the worst ending in narrative history, the fact that the same game played out entirely differently for me than it did for all of you pretty much makes the whole experience worth it. To people complaining about this story - I dare any one of you to try and write a non-linear narrative of this scope. Just try. Hell try to write a 10 page non-linear narrative. Do you know how hard it is? How much skill it takes? And to write thousands of pages worth of story and have it all make sense by the third game? Just please, stop complaining. You have no idea. I'll say it here and now, the Mass Effect trilogy is the best series of this generation. It is the pinnacle of non-linear storytelling. It is so far beyond what anyone complaining is capable of that they don't even have the skill to judge. It's a staggering achievement. It may very well be the greatest achievement in game narrative history. And people are saying these guys can't write? Are they serious? This is why I hate gamers. This is why I always defend developers from the haters. These guys do something that no human has ever done before and all people can do is complain. Do people even comprehend what it took to make this series? The sheer scale of it? Understand that even though the game is only 25 hours long or so, every single mission can play out in a dozen different ways. While any one playthrough may only be 25 hours, there is easily 300+ hours worth of content in this game. And they did three of these things in only 7 years. It takes talent and skill beyond what almost any game designer or writer is capable of. And people complain. I just don't get it. A game designer could explain the meaning of the universe to some gamers and they would go on some campaign against him. If you are one of the people who some how can't see this series for what it is then just please stop playing games. You are ruining it for the rest of us. Mass Effect as a series is narrative driven gaming at its absolute best. It is the singular accomplishment of this generation and anyone who can't get over the final 5 minutes of this series to appreciate the rest of it just doesn't deserve an internet connection to complain on. Plain and simple. Okay rant over.

Thank you everyone again. You made what was already the experience of the generation for me about 10x better. I just want to say that I have pretty much no complaints about this game 16 hours in. A couple visual bugs, and a couple gameplay bugs, but that is it. The game is damn close to perfect. The hate for this game blows my mind. I just don't get it.

Mass Effect 3: The Wow Moment (Spoiler Free)

Like last time I'll keep this spoiler free so feel free to read if you haven't played the game.

An hour ago I got up from my computer shaking. I was literally physically shaking. It was my body letting out a huge amount of tension. But this tension didn't come from a real life situation but a moment in a game. The game was Mass Effect 3. It was a moment I won't describe but suffice to say it was one of the greatest moments in the history of gaming. At that moment I felt all the choices I had made in the series up to that point come to a head. I had the fate of the galaxy resting on my shoulders and if I made the wrong choice I was going to sacrifice at the very least an entire species and a team member who I had grown to love. I was completely invested. I had been playing for 5 hours straight and it was already light outside. But I had to see this mission through to its conclusion. As a timer literally ticked down I made a last ditch effort to avert disaster and somehow pulled it off. This wasn't the type of thing that was going to work no matter what. If I had made different choices leading up to that point, or if I hadn't prepared in the right way, it all could have gone bad. And when I finally pulled it off I felt this wave of pride and accomplishment sweep over me. This wasn't just the victory of a character in a game, it was a victory that I had pulled off through numerous choices in 3 games over a five year span.

I felt like a million dollars. I let out a huge sigh of relief and let all that tension bleed away. And I stood up from my computer and I felt like I had accomplished something big. It was the greatest sense of achievement I have ever felt while playing a game. And now I'm writing this blog, amazed that people are saying this game didn't live up to the hype. I still haven't reached that dreaded ending, but I'll be damned if this isn't the most emotional I have ever been while playing a game. Several times I have been on the verge of tears. At one point I let out a sob. A massive sob, alone in my room. It was a hugely emotional moment. One of many I have experienced when playing this game. It's been one hell of a journey and it has without a doubt been the single most rewarding game I have ever played.

I don't remember who said it, but some journalist said recently that Mass Effect isn't going to be remembered 10 years from now for its crappy ending. Nor should it be. It's going to be remembered because of what it meant for gaming narratives. It's going to be remembered because it's one of the first games that made people care and care deeply about virtual characters. By building up five years of anticipation, Bioware was able to create an experience that really felt epic. It felt like you were making a difference. It felt personal and powerful. Maybe there were misteps along the way but those misteps are easily over shadowed by the incredible accomplishment that this series is. And the most amazing part about Mass Effect? That both of the moments I described above only occured because of specific choices I made. If I had made different choices then both those missions would have played out entirely differently. Characters may have been dead, or may have hated me. I experienced one of hundreds of possible ways for this game to play out. So maybe the ending won't reflect my choices as well as it could have. I seriously can't imagine how this game might play, if, for example, I had killed Wrex in the first game. An entire key story arc would have played out in an entirely different fashion. It's a staggering achievement. The pinnacle of interactive fiction. Hundreds of threads leading in numerous directions. It's truly staggering.

So haters of the ending, get over it. If people can't see this game and this series for the astounding accomplishment that it is then they are blind. I don't care if you hate their DLC or if you dislike the second game's focus on action over RPG elements. Like I said, they've made some misteps. But as a whole I can't say there has been any series in any medium that I look as fondly on as I look at Mass Effect. By the time this game is done I'll have spent well over 100 hours in this universe. And that universe and the characters in it are characters who I have grown to care about and love. Because my choices kept those characters alive. This was a personal adventure, tailored directly to how I played. It's what games were meant to do. A lot of people have said that Bioware isn't what it used to be. I disagree. This game is Bioware at their best. It is a game with a perfect mix of depth and action. The combat requires real strategy for the first time in the series. I actually had to pause the game and issue comands a couple times, which is the first time I've had to do that in the series. But beyond the combat, which is superb in this installment, you have an interactive narrative that should be the textbook on how to create game stories ending be damned. I have maybe six or seven hours left of the game and I have no doubts that it will be an amazing six hours and 50 minutes at the very least. Mass Effect for me is everything I play games for. Yea there are a fair number of bugs and at times the age of this tech starts to show with blurry textures or weak animation. But by and large Mass Effect 3 is this generation of games at their very best. I for one am so far completely satisfied with Mass Effect 3, and I hope that gamers can overlook whatever hate they have towards Bioware or EA and appreciate this game for what it is. Probably the next time I blog about this I'll have finished the game and at that point I'll be able to weigh in on the ending. I'll keep my hopes up that I like it.