Warning: This post contains spoilers about games, and you'll usually know which game will have have spoilers when I start talking about it by name.
While playing some of the fairly well-known and some of the best-rated games nowadays, I found myself contemplating certain things...little things, and little mistakes or shortcomings. I'm a big believer in that sometimes the "little things" make the biggest difference in a game (or a movie for that matter); and at the end of the day, the line between movies and games is getting blurier by the month today, so much that I keep feeling inclined to call the former "audiovisual entertainment" and the latter "interactive entertainment". At least this way, non-gamers, our spouses or wives or partners, relatives and friends, may take us a bit more seriously. After all, when we tell them that our interactive entertainment can actually be a lot more entertaining, engaging, immersive, and fun (at least when it's built on a good story and good voice acting) than their audiovisual entertainment, which can only be enjoyed passivelywatched, they may stop for a moment and thing that that actually does make sense.
Anyway, I feel a strong urge to share some of the little things, and perhaps some of the not-so-little things, which may still seem trivial for a portion of gamers out there, which all make a big difference for some of the best games out there, and maybe for some of the underrated ones too.
I'm playing Alan Wake at the time of writing this post (yeah, a bit of catching up here), and one of the "little things", which I really appreciated, was a scene where Alan is interrupted by his friend, Barry, and guess what? Remedy has done that little interruption perfectly...a proper interruption, where Barry's first few words being said are actually "mixed" with Alan's last few words, i.e. you can hear them both talk over each other. To many people, that may seem very trivial, but not to me at all, and hey, that's exactly why this blog post has "Little Things" in its title; sometimes little things really do inspire to appreciate the directing and finishing of games. And I strongly believe that any game developer who would like to develop a new "classic"...something that gamers would continue to play and love for years, and became rabid fans of the developer for, then they must really pay attention to those little things. Now, why is this interruption thing such a big deal to me? Well, because it happens repeatedly in a game series that is very well-written and superbly voice acted like the Mass Effect series. But very unfortunately, the technical implemention of a character interrupting another in the Mass Effect series is a quite jarring for me, and really breaks my immersion while playing when it happens, because in the Mass Effect trilogy, and probably all other games I played, interruption happens in that ridiculous way that makes you feel like the line was recorded by the actor as he stops in the end, and when the game finishes playing that audio file, then it plays the next audio file, which happens to be for the next actor or character who is supposedly interrupting the first; but, of course, because there is quite a comfortable stop or half a second of silence between both lines, it makes you feel like there was no interruption, and the first actor or character just stopped talking and allowed the next character to interrupt. The whole thing just feels artificial, jarring, and ridiculous, especially when the story is very immersive and the voice acting is very well done. I wish there was a real Quality Checking time and work put in such games to avoid such things. I wish I worked in such a department to strive to produce an almost perfected game.
I also have some other thoughts about Mass Effect 3, and why it was very disappointing for many fans. Of course, the laziness and cheapness of the stock-photo for Tali (even if the picture is beautiful and all) was a bit insulting...and jarring. Not showing Tali's face at all would've been worse, though; it would really break the immersion when you know that "Shepard" can and did see Tali's face, but "you" can't; after all, if you [are] Shepard, then you should be able to see Tali's face.
Another, much bigger problem with Mass Effect 3 was the story. In Mass Effect 2, BioWare basically made the Reapers your real enemy, and everyone's common enemy, and they also made the Harbinger your nemesis...Shepard nemesis, and the personification of your enemy in the game. And when ME2 ended, obviously there was unfinished business with the Harbinger; in fact, you didn't finish [any] business at all with him! And then what did they do in Mass Effect 3? All of a sudden, the Harbinger is completely gone...and you actually don't quite feel that the Reapers are your real enemy anymore; actually, throughout the game, your hatred starts to grow towards Cerberus, and your personified nemesis suddenly becomes the Illusive Man, not the Harbinger! And while all that would've been fine and dandy had there been a Mass Effect 4, where Shepard (or you) would have gotten rid of the Cerberus "menace" (and it sure as hell should've just stayed just a menace rather than your real enemy in the finale, and your fourth and final journey becomes focused on the Reapers, personified in the Harbinger...that wasn't what BioWare did. BioWare actually decidid to make the game just a trilogy, and ended the damn series very disappointingly after a final journey mainly focused on Cerberus and the emotional hatred towards it, which distracted us as players from the hatred towards the Reapers and the Harbinger and all what they did to our friends and fellow humans throughout the series, and distracted us from the unfinished business with the Harbinger. And to our dismay, or at least to the dismay of thousands of fans who felt very empty after finishing Mass Effect 3 but couldn't quite understand why they felt so empty and like the whole thing was meaningless, the game ends without us even facing the Harbinger or talking to it a single time! Can you imagine how horrible and empty that would feel after all the emotions invested in Mass Effect 2 and its characters and events and sacrifices?
Many people think that the emptiness and disappointment was mainly because of Shepard's fate, but I strongly believe that's not it at all. BioWare probably wanted to create an epic saga or trilogy that would forever remain in the memories of gamers and fans, especially with its finale, by their decision to make Shepard's fate go that way in the end; alas, I think they messed up big time and didn't end up creating that classic of a trilogy. And although their writing and storytelling remained superb, I think they were blinded from seeing the huge flaw of that shift of invested emotion from Reapers to Cerberus, and blinded from realizing that they were creating a huge emptiness with the unfinished business (that will always remain unfinished now, no matter what's done and no matter what DLC they produce), I think they were blinded from seeing all this, and missed their chance at creating a long-lasting saga for several reasons, but most importantly I think it is because they succumbed to beating the drum of a dodgy propagandist agenda called Transhumanism...promoting it very clearly and subconsciously convincing gamers to like it and be convinced with it. And secondly, because of little messed up, budget or greed-related decisions (regardless to whether they came from EA or BioWare) like the whole stock-photo thing with Tali, rather than doing the right thing, and we all know what the right emotional thing would be in this case.
Other little things, half-cooked romance options and scenes that in no way even compared to the relationships and scened built in Mass Effect 2. And turning one of the most awaited characters ever, Ashley, from a beloved character to many, who could've made an epic return, and had the most exciting and beautiful relationship ever in ME3...into one of the most offensive characters around Shepard in ME3...pretty much the only crew member who mistrusts Shepard for so long, even if they were in love back in ME1! Imagine how repelled and offended you would be if the woman you loved keeps questioning your loyalty to your country as a soldier, and keeps questioning your integrity, and even suspects you for a liar although you reassured her of where you stand, and she still won't believe you! That is supposed to be a woman who really loved you? And then later on she goes as far as to point a gun at you? I really don't understand what BioWare was thinking destroying the memory of Ashley, and the beauty of a relationship with her in the finale, that way. But it really was such a shame to see and experience, especially for a player who kept looking at Ashley's picture until the very end of ME2, and took one last look before the suicide mission.
BioWare really, really messed up in ME3, and in many ways. And again, I wish I had been there as a decision maker to convince the team members to not do things that way, and to find the middle ground, the ideal solution that can satisfy as many parties invested and concerned as possible.
These thoughts will probably continue, but for now, back to playing Alan Wake and trying to forget what BioWare did to our beloved series and its characters and story...