This Week in Games: March 24, 2012

Congressmen suggested silly things, Ken Levine weighed in on the Mass Effect drama, Notch said he wants to remake Elite but make it like Firefly, and wait...what? Prey 2 was canceled?

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The Mass Effect 3 ending debate showed no sign of losing any of its ferocity this week, but closure is now in sight. Let's hope when we all look back on this six months from now that the whole thing doesn't end up looking like it was contrived from the beginning to make us all want to buy DLC. In other news, there was other news but we should get this part out of the way first…

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BioWare Breaks Its Silence on the Mass Effect 3 Ending

Many that have played through BioWare's epic conclusion to Mass Effect 3 have been a little disappointed by the, um epic conclusion part. Thousands of players from around the world have expressed their displeasure with the choices that the studio made, and many feel that the original promise of the game was not met. Regardless of your feelings, it's hard not to notice the lack of closure that the ending(s) provide. On Wednesday this week, BioWare broke its silence on the subject, and in a statement released on its website, co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka said the development team is working on "game content initiatives" to answer lingering questions and provide fans with more closure. Specifics about those initiatives are expected next month. "We're working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we've received," Muzyka said. "This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue." Muzyka stressed that BioWare is listening to all of the feedback it has received, provided it is constructive instead of destructive.

Whether you feel strongly about the game's ending or not, the fact that a game is able to elicit such a strong reaction from fans at all is deeply significant. Very few games have ever flared passions to this degree.

Whether you feel strongly about the game's ending or not, the fact that it is able to elicit such a strong reaction from fans at all is deeply significant to video games in general. Very few titles have ever flared passions to this degree, so this is an important part of the growth of the medium. Fans aren't the only people with concerns about the issue though; other game developers have started to express themselves on the topic too. BioShock creator and Irrational Games founder Ken Levine said that he is saddened by the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy. Speaking at the Smithsonian's "Art of Video Games" exhibit last weekend, the longtime designer called the situation "an important moment" for the industry. Levine said fans will be let down if BioWare decides to craft a different ending to Mass Effect 3. He added that if the studio does design an alternate ending, neither BioWare nor fans will be satisfied. "I think if those people got what they wanted and [BioWare] wrote their ending they would be very disappointed in the emotional feeling they got because…they didn't really create it," he said. "I think this whole thing is making me a little bit sad because I don't think anyone would get what they wanted if that happened."

The week ended with more drama; The Retake Mass Effect ChipIn charity drive ended Thursday after the charity for which it raised $80,000--Penny Arcade's Child's Play--asked it to pull the plug. Penny Arcade writer Jerry Holkins addressed the issue in a post on the web comic's main site last night, saying there was a good amount of confusion among those who were donating to the cause. "Apparently some of the people giving to the cause seemed to think that they were paying for a new ending to Mass Effect," Holkins said. "[Child's Play's project manager has] been asked what the goal is, and how much they need to raise in order to get the ending produced. We've also been contacted by PayPal due to a high number of people asking for their donations back. This is in addition to readers who simply couldn’t understand how this was connected to Child's Play's mission. We were dealing with a lot of very confused people, more every day, and that told us we had a problem."

In a post on the Retake Mass Effect page, the ChipIn fund's organizer (who goes by Robb on the site) explained why he chose to comply with the request. He also anticipated the reaction of the fund's supporters, saying, "There will be conspiracy theories regarding this. Many of the public statements by Penny Arcade have been dismissive or outright derogatory of our effort. I believe this is a failure on their part to understand our issues, but they are entitled to their opinion. Regardless, I want to stress that I do not believe for one second that this is an attempt by anyone at Penny Arcade to silence this movement."

If you're just sick of hearing about the whole thing, or you're so distraught by the news that you can't face playing the game any more, take some pleasure from the unusual news that you will soon be able to wear N7 armor in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Yeah. Weird huh? Kinda cool though.

Prey 2 Canceled? Plus, Skyrim DLC Name?

Technically this is still a rumor, but we're bummed-out by it regardless, because the game looked pretty awesome. Based on information from "multiple reliable sources" Dutch games site PS Focus is reporting that Bethesda has canceled the sequel to Prey. A trio of Prey 2 presentations had been scheduled for this month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, but those were canceled by Bethesda prior to the event. This led to concerned speculation about the title, and it now seems likely that something unfortunate is affecting the title. As is typical in these scenarios, no one is talking, but we'll no doubt see some confirmation in the very near future.

In other Bethesda-related news, the company has filed for a trademark recently that hints at the name of a possible DLC pack for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. All that was learned from the filing was the name "Dawnguard," but it has sparked plenty of speculation. Here at GameSpot we've been bugging the guys at Bethesda for ages about DLC info, and so far they're not saying anything; but this may be the first tangible hint at something to come.

"I want the space game that's more like Firefly. I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here." - Markus "Notch" Persson

Notch to Make Elite-type Game with Firefly Influences? We're Sold

Anyone remember Elite? If you’re over the age of…ooh, 35-ish you’ll no doubt be aware of it. It helps if you’re European too. Even more if you’re English. But anyway, Elite was a fantastic space combat and trading game that was originally released for the BBC Micro in 1984. It was phenomenally influential, and helped shape the way that sprawling space adventures were designed for years after. Elite creator David Braben has for years been planning to get back to the space trading genre he pioneered, but it looks like Minecraft maestro Markus "Notch" Persson may beat him to it. Speaking with PC Gamer, Persson said he'd like to start work this summer on an Elite-like sandbox space trading game. But where Braben's original computer game had players in control of a simple 3D ship, Persson wants to give the genre a more personal touch. "I want the space game that's more like Firefly," Persson told PC Gamer. "I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here."

Weekly Baldur's Gate News: It's Now Coming to iPad

Seems we're saying something about Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition pretty much every week lately, but this one's kinda cool. Developer Overhaul Games has announced that the new version of the 1998 role-playing game will be available for the iPad. Due this summer, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition runs on an updated version of the Infinity Engine and will include the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion pack. In addition, Overhaul Games is promising "never-before-seen" content to the game, including a "new adventure" and party member.

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Minecraft, Trials Evolution, Fable Heroes, Bloodforge = Arcade Next

Minecraft will finally arrive on the Xbox 360 May 9. Microsoft confirmed this week that the huge indie hit will headline its next Xbox Live Arcade seasonal promotion. The clumsily-titled Arcade Next spring downloadable game drive will kick off April 18 with the release of Trials Evolution (yes, the sequel to the original which was a guilty pleasure for many of us) for 1,200 Microsoft points ($15). Climax's gore-drenched Bloodforge is the second game, set for an April 25 debut for 1,200 Microsoft points ($15). Fable Heroes, the four-player action hack-and-slasher (and the first Lionhead Studios release since Peter Molyneux's departure) is scheduled for a May 2 launch for 800 Microsoft points ($10). Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition will anchor the lineup debuting May 9 with a fairly substantial 1,600 Microsoft point ($20) price attached. Already a phenomenal success, Mojang's open-world construction game will apparently add Kinect support at some point in the near future through a patch. Development of the port is being handled by 4J Studios, the outfit behind the Xbox 360 versions of the original Perfect Dark and the Banjo-Kazooie games.

A Mixed-Bag of a Week for Releases

Some big name games, some beloved franchises, and some real crap was released this week. Which is which? You decide.

Kid Icarus: Uprising was very good, and got an 8.0.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is not very good. It got a 5.5.

Angry Birds Space is an enjoyable an 8.0.

Armored Core V received a disappointing 6.0.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City lumbered it's way to a 4.5.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations has a very long name, and got a 7.0.

Shoot Many Robots is a cheap and cheerful XBLA/PSN game worthy of a 7.5.

Another Day, Another Silly Video Games Bill

After trying and failing to legislate against the content of video games, Congress' latest frivolous, time-wasting nonsense concerns the labelling of all games as violent. The snappily titled "Violence in Video Games Labelling Act" was introduced by Congressmen Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Monday and if passed would require video games to carry a special warning label similar to the kind found on cigarettes. That warning would be: "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior."

They want this label to appear on all games…So yes, whatever game you're currently thinking of will require it. Mario Galaxy? Yep. Mario Party 9? Oh yes. Paws & Claws Pampered Pet Resort 3D? You betcha.

"The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers — to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products," Baca puffed, presmably completely disregarding the ESRB ratings that appear on the front and the back of all retail games. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."

"Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents — and children — about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior," Wolf said. "As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games."

Just to be clear, this isn't something that they want to appear just on violent games. They want this label to appear on all games. Well, except games rated "EC" for "Early Childhood". So yes, whatever game you're currently thinking of will require it. Super Mario Galaxy? Yep. Mario Party 9? Oh yes. Paws & Claws: Pampered Pets Resort 3D? You betcha. Here's the text from the bill…

a) REGULATION.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission shall promulgate regulations to require the warning label described in subsection (b) to be placed on the packaging of any video game that is rated "E" (Everyone), "Everyone 10+" (Everyone 10 and older), "T" (Teen), "M" (Mature), or "A" (Adult) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board."

Aaaaaaaand, we'll take your responses in the comments.

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