Sunday, December 7, 2014

Opportunity Lost

The failure to move forward with a high-quality movie is keeping Mass Effect from being the next great Sci-Fi franchise.  I was killing some time this weekend and ended up watching some Mass Effect compilation videos on YouTube.  It made me think about whatever happened to the Mass Effect movie and perhaps a huge opportunity being squandered by EA/Bioware and “Hollywood” to bring the next great Sci-Fi movie trilogy to non-gamers.

Some of the videos put together by other Mass Effect fans are awesome.  If you haven’t you should watch a couple of the ones that take all the cut scenes and make them into a movie of sorts covering Mass Effect, ME2 and ME3.  Mass Effect fans have some serious video capture and editing skills way beyond mine.

As I recall Legendary Pictures was to produce the movie and it had a substantial amount of steam at one time.   A quick Internet search using Google pulled these two articles; “Universal May Have Just Announced the Mass Effect Movie” and  Original ‘Mass Effect’ Movie Writer Says Game Was Too Difficult to Adapt.”  Seems like these two articles contradict each other.  Maybe some other sites that follow Hollywood movie productions might have some insight.

The second article is interesting because it includes a interview with the writer of the first ME script. The writer says he was adapting the first Mass Effect for the movie.  I like the idea of adapting the three games as a movie trilogy.  Although gamers would be familiar with the plot generally the public would not.  Mass Effect would be a breath of fresh air for the rest of the moving going public.  

The story line of the games is solid enough that with minimal Hollywood interpretation they can be made into quality movie scripts.  If you can add to that quality directing, actors and special effects you’ll have a great movie.  Of course that is a lot of ifs that need to come together.  How many poor sci-fi movies have you seen based on quality source material?  Perhaps the “John Carter” movie based on Edgar Rice’s books or the Chris Roberts “Wing Commander” movie based on the “Wing Commander” video game come to mind just to name two.  (Speaking of Chris Roberts his new “Star Citizen” game funded through crowd sourcing looks impressive.)

Here’s a interesting article about the upcoming WoW movie and why Legendary Pictures’ ME movie isn’t moving as fast as the WoW movie did.  So perhaps a ME movie is still a possibility.  This is interesting too because they talk about how all the WoW lore helped them to make the movie and how all the ME lore is hurting the movie.  Just an fyi, I used to play WoW and really enjoyed the lore.

What if Mass Effect was a television series on the scale of the recent remake of Battle Star Galactica on the SyFy channel?  I would certainly support that and could see a four or five year arch to cover ME, ME2 and ME3.  Star Trek started as a television series that spawned movies, books and several video games.  (None of games I played were very good.  I even gave Star Trek Online a try and didn’t find it my cup of tea but I know many people enjoy the game.)  Star Wars started as a books but it was the movie that made it famous and has spawned a whole new era of books and several video games.  From that perspective Star Trek and Star Wars are complete opposite.  Now you have Mass Effect whose genesis is a video game, a few books and it might transition to movies or TV.

I’ve always liked Sci-Fi of all types.  Of course in the space arena I like Star Trek and Star Wars.  However both of these franchises feel old and stale to me.  J.J. Abrams did a good job with the last two Star Trek movies but I can’t say I was really excited about them.  I’m sure I’ll see the new J.J. Abrams Star Wars movie, perhaps when I can rent it on Apple TV, but again I’m not really excited about it.

So what is it that Mass Effect has that Star Wars and Star Trek don’t?  I’m not exactly sure.  All three have huge expansive universes.  They each have interesting and developed characters. I think the difference is interactivity.  In Mass Effect I was actively a part of the story.  In the other movies and TV series I was a passive observer.  That interactivity somehow makes me more invested in the story.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mass Effect 4 and Dragon Age Inquisition to share the Frostbite engine

Bioware stated that Mass Effect 4 and the new Dragon Age Inquisition will both be built on the Frostbite Engine.

Although I’m not invested in the Dragon Age (DA) series I thought I’d play Dragon Age Inquisition to get a feel for the Frostbite engine and see what we might expect to experience with Mass Effect 4.  I did partially play Dragon Age II and it was horrible on oh so many levels.  Most people and game reviewers who have played DA say the DA Origins was excellent and DA II not a worthy follow up effort.

So I'm 25 hours into DAIQ and so far I'm not impressed.  To be fair I am playing on a Xbox 360.  Perhaps DAIQ on Xbox One or PS4 is significantly better than Xbox 360.  I'll buy an Xbox One when the new Mass Effect comes out.  Wish they would make it for Mac, but I digress.

I'm not a techie and know very little about programming and writing code etc so my experience is just my perceptions as a gamer playing so I don't know if the problems are with Frostbite, Bioware programming or any number of issues that can affect game play.

The first thing that I noticed is that the sound keeps shutting off.  I have to go to an external menu and return to the game to fix the sound.  Occasionally that doesn't work and I have to exit the game completely and reload to get the sound back.  

To continue the sound theme, the sound is often broken up like it isn't properly synched with the animation or the sound can't keep up the video.  This is a frequent problem and is annoying.

Visually the Xbox 360 looks good but there are many instances where the screen doesn't render seamlessly.  This usually affects a section of the screen that doesn't look right then you can watch it fill in.  That might be because the processor, graphics card and available random access memory of the Xbox 360 doesn't have the horsepower to handle the requirements.  Any techies have an explanation?

The game mechanics are similar to Mass Effect with the familiar wheel etc.  You can choose three other characters to be part of your team for missions.  The War Council is somewhat like going the galaxy map on the Normandy in Mass Effect.  Unlike Mass Effect you can switch between characters controlling any toon in your party.  I'm not sure how I feel about this. It is fun to switch occasionally but switching makes me feel like I'm less invested in the character I created to play the game.  For example I created a mage.  But if you get bored and want to check out the abilities of a warrior or rogue you can do that and switch back to your character whenever you want.  I'm sure others may view this as a good feature.  I'm not against it but not sure I want to embrace it either.

Moving through the game zones is a problem.  You are able to mark the location you want to go to and a little graphic in the bottom left corner shows your field of vision and your mark giving you a straight line azimuth to your target.  The problem is that this graphic is blank.  It doesn't show you the terrain between you and your target.  So you'll find that you can't move to the location because there is a terrain feature such as a mountain range between you and your target.  Ultimately you end up having to follow some type of terrain feature going out of your way to get someplace.  You can exit to the menu screen to look at the game map which shows you the terrain around you.  The terrain it shows isn't terribly detained but that ends up taking significant time from actually playing especially if you have to do it frequently to find your way to the target location.

More DAIQ updates to follow.