Tuesday, February 28

Did you kill the Rachni Queen in the original Mass Effect game?

So, did you kill the Rachni Queen in the original Mass Effect game?

Mass Effect has always been a game where decisions have consequneces. That's a key element of the game right? In the original Mass Effect game, the first true 'boss' character was the Rachni Queen. Once you and your pals had defeated her, you had to make a choice - kill her and thus the entire Arachni Race or let her live.

Those who got the Play Station version of the ME2 were also asked to make the same choice by way of a very cool comic before they started the game proper. In the actual game, and only if you let the Queen live, a message was delivered to you when you first landed on the Asari homeworld (I think from memory!) that the Queen had not forgotten this kind act.

This suggested your decision to save (or not save) would have consequences but nothing come of it in the end.

In a recent interview by Darren Franich with  ME3's lead writer Mac Walters some comment was made on that decision and the effect it may have in Mass Effect 3:

Darren "I saved the Rachni in the first game, and there was a little tease about them in Mass Effect 2. How big of a repercussion do choices like that have in this game? Does that mean I get a mission that someone who killed the Rachni wouldn’t get?"

Mac "The thing I will say about Mass Effect 3 is that the choices you’ve made previously, and the differences that those choices represent, are much bigger than they’ve been in the past. There are certain missions that are simply not available at all because of something you’ve done in the past. Those are usually on a smaller scale. It’s a role-playing part. Is Conrad Verner alive or dead? [The presence of the Rachni] has huge consequences in Mass Effect 3. Even just in the final battle with the Reapers. "

There you have it, you probably should have saved the Queen.... unless it's one big long fake out and they sided with the Reapers years ago......

Sunday, February 26

Streetfighter Cosplay

Simply, Street Fighter Cosplay. Enjoy.

JJ Reviews: Halo Cryptum by Greg Bear

Sometimes a story has been told to death. Think any James Bond, Freddy Kruger or Jack Reacher series - all done to death and often not highly original - they become past their use by date.

Eventually someone (a right's holder looking at diminishing returns) realizes the story is stale and reboot or retelling is necessary. Or else some dark secret that was merely hinted at is explored by way of a prequel.

Queue the Halo franchise - 5 Halo games in, a series of animations, cartoons and novels have followed. Some might argue that the Halo story is reaching or has reached its use by date. Whatever you think,  the story is now being split in two directions - 343 Industries think they have a new story for Halo 4 and Greg Bear has been given the task of telling a prequel story but a prequel perhaps unlike any other in that it's set 100,000 years before the age in which most people know the Halo universe. 

Halo Cryptum is the first of a trilogy known as The Forerunner Saga. Pitched as being "the first deep exploration into the time of the Forerunners, the creators and builders of the Halos. Almost nothing is known for sure about this ancient race. Worshipped by the Covenant as gods, their engineering relics pepper the galaxy, and their connection to humanity remains unanswered. "

Well frankly, Cryptum  raises more questions than it answers but that's OK as the plot gives a facinating glimpse into the origins of the Flood, an truly deep insight into the Forerunners and their struggles with what the presence of the Flood means for the 3 million planets that have sentient life. If you've seen Halo: Origins, that story puts Cryptum in context - this book is an exploration of the tales suggested in that story.

Thankfully, writer Greg Bear is no Alan Dean Foster of the Halo universe simply churning out the movie tie-in, his writing is tightly wound to the fabric of the Halo universe but he's been given the chance to add some real meat to the bones of the Forerunner's story which till now has only really been hinted at by the games.

He takes our antagonist 'Born Stellar' on a wonderful journey across the galaxy. Perhaps as a pawn of unseen masters, this 'manipular' interrupts the deep sleep of the Didact, a Forerunner whose knowledge of the universe could either save or perhaps destroy the galaxy. It's epic in concept but framed just right so that through the eyes of Born Stellar we see the ties of  his family and the secrets within it gradually being revealed to show that the treasure he seeks is not the treasure he'll find. 

A key point of plot, and spoiler alert here, is that it's revealed humans have been around much longer than the previous Halo canon has suggested - humans were once a thriving space travelling species that had fought a battle with the Flood, long before the Forerunners knew of its existence...

Cryptum also has carnivorous singing flowers which is always amusing in a science fiction novel. I named them 'Daughters of Audrey'.

As a piece of fiction, Halo: Cryptum isn't going to win the Booker Prize anytime soon, it has a slow pace in parts (save for an excellent finish involving court rooms and epic space battles), one could argue it's characters have little depth and that it's sometimes light on detail, such as lack of explanation of how some technology works.
I think that above gripes can be ignored if you just want to get inside the Halo universe a bit more deeply that you might have otherwise tread by playing the games. It gives an extraordinary insight into why the Halo games are the way they are (albeit they were written first!). That said, if you've never even heard of Halo before, you should still be able to follow Born Stellar's ride quite well.

I enjoyed Cryptum an immense deal and the moment I finished it, I grabbed my laptop and ordered the second book, Primordium. I can't hardly wait for it to arrive!

Extra for Experts: Trainspotters might note that the cover of Cryptum was also used in the Halo 4 Concept Art trailer.

Friday, February 24

ME3 Sheppard vs Reaper Wallpaper

mass effect wallpaper

This is some pretty epic wallpaper of Sheppard rushing down a dirt road, chasing a Reaper.

Mass Effect 3 Voice Commands Guide

You probably already know that Mass Effect 3 features voice commands when Kinect is used within the game. Here's a sweet guide that will help you remember what to shout out when you're in the thick of the action!

I think the best use of the voice commands will be calling tactics for your squad members to employ.

As the guide suggests, voice commands should be employed where you don't want to issue a commnad via the controller that would ordinarily require you to bring the on-screen display up, thus allowing for a quicker and less stop start run through.

The Hills Are Alive With the Sounds of (Halo 4) Music


The Hills Are Alive With the Sounds of (Halo 4) Music

As borrowed from the Halo Bulletin on Waypoint
In designing a video game, its audio is, of course, one of the things that contribute to a memorable and emotional experience.

Halo has always had amazing audio design. With Halo 4, we are respecting the music philosophy of previous Halos while establishing a fresh, new direction for Halo 4's music, employing our own distinctive style that still feels like Halo. The goal is to make the music of the story fit not only the gameplay, but also the player's emotional circumstances.

When thinking about the player's emotional circumstances, we're using an interactive implementation. Sometimes, when fighting an enemy, it's simply a fight. Other times, even in the same level, you can be fighting but it may suddenly turn into a distressing encounter. Since circumstances within the story constantly change, we want our music to sync with those changes when it's appropriate to enhance the experience. How many enemies are tracking you? When do the enemies notice your presence? What kind of cinematic did you watch before the combat? Our goal when asking these questions is to make the music change dynamically with the gameplay to account for your personal gameplay experience.

Sometimes we'll suggest a change to the story to sync with the music more, and vice versa. Communication within the studio is an important part to achieve this synchronicity.

The vision for our audio is huge. Like a child, we started as a blank slate when trying to find our own unique musical language. Then we began making a few sounds here and there. Now we're at the point where those sounds collide, intertwine, and say things about the Halo 4 universe. This was a process that we had to learn as a team. Introducing a new composer, and learning how to work with that composer, was part of the process. We'll have more details about this currently unnamed individual in the future. But I'm guessing you already knew that....

So, how are we creating our own language based on realism in the world of Halo? Our concept focuses on the digital and the organic, and we share that vision across the entirety of our audio production.

What does that mean, exactly? I'll use a recent audio recording session as an example.

We've recorded source material for the arsenal of both new and returning weapons you'll have at your disposal in Halo 4. The gun recording was difficult because we needed to record close sounds, distant sounds, and everything in between. We had to figure out what microphone, what distance, and what range was appropriate while factoring in weather, wind, and anything and everything Mother Nature might randomly decide to throw our way.

To get the best audio quality possible, we worked with the military on one of their training grounds where the occasional dropped bomb is not an uncommon experience. During that session, we staged first-person encounters so that we could understand how the weapons should feel when playing the game, and then we used numerous 30-channel microphones to record the actual sounds.

We had to have the elements to connect the player to something familiar but still be able to offer something outlandish and alien. After this aural base is formed, we then have all the freedom in the world to mix and match different elements into a single weapon. Even a Forerunner weapon incorporates some of the elements from that gun session.

These real weapon recordings act as the glue for the rest of the sound ingredients for Halo 4's arsenal. There's a whole other process we go through to create epic sci-fi elements outside of the field recording sessions, though, as we gather a collection of source assets and then shape them to precision. The aforementioned gun session, as elaborate as it was, is just a small portion of the assets we require to make the sound effects in Halo 4.

This means we're always exploring and recording new sounds. Everything from the opening and closing of a pair of rusty scissors to a brushtail possum's scream pitched down an octave to a short snippet from a two-inch mortar explosion are all on file in our extensive audio library.

Within the sounds of Halo 4, there's a sense of fantasy based on reality, where otherworldly sounds have a feeling of familiarity...

To talk more about the audio aspect of our upcoming game, I asked Sotaro Tojima, the Audio Director for Halo 4, to write the fifth entry in our Office of Halo Intelligence series. Here are his thoughts on the music and sounds that will one day be gracing your earholes.

"I'm honored to have an opportunity to talk here! I just came back from a weekly music review, and especially this week, I was so excited about one piece of music. This emotional, digitized piece became the second favorite piece of Halo 4 music which we've made so far. I can't wait to share this with you!

Producing the Halo 4 music is very difficult, but such a fun job for me. I know many people, including me, love the previous Halos' music. Halo 4 will be a story for Master Chief and Cortana. Therefore, we are driving our music production respecting the previous music tone.

At the same time, we are working to establish some freshness in the music because this is a new trilogy and we are a new team.

I love creating game audio because it is a direct communication between fans and the team. I want to communicate with our "own" language of sound and music. Even if having a new language on Halo is very challenging...

My goal for making audio is always very simple. How much can we make people excited and immersed in the story and gameplay experience with our audio? There are three key ways I like to do that:
  • Provide a sense of reality with sophisticated sound design to bring you into a believable world.
  • Achieve a memorable, dramatic experience with great music and sounds well synced with the story beat and your gameplay.
  • Share a delightful memory with all fans providing an iconic melody.
Actually, my real goal is to make you cry!

When I hired the people that make up the Halo 4 audio team, one of the criteria I had was that if you want to work it had to be "for fans more than anything." And now I have a great team. Everyone is so happy to work hard to surprise you.

Again, it is very hard to achieve a great audio for the Halo universe, but I believe we can do this as long as we don't forget you are waiting patiently for us. Stay tuned for next update from me, and for more exciting topics in OHI!

-Sotaro Tojima

Monday, February 20

Migrant Fleet refuses Council inspectors

From: Alliance News Network Information Partners
September 7, 2186
Migrant Fleet refuses Council inspectors
CITADEL — Diplomatic relations between the quarians and Citadel Council have chilled after the Migrant Fleet refused to consider visitation by Council weapons inspectors.
The move comes several months after the Migrant Fleet allegedly acquired dual-use ship materials, which could be used to create dreadnought-scale weaponry.
The allegations leveled by unnamed Spectres center around a battle over the Terminus world of Korlus. In a violent dispute, the Migrant Fleet fought Blue Suns mercenaries and when the fighting was done, took its fill of starship parts on or orbiting the planet.
Quarian representatives have so far been unapologetic.
“We have no embassy on the Citadel, and are no longer signatories to the Treaty of Farixen,” Admiral Han’Gerrel vas Neema said. “Our armaments are none of the Council’s business. Further, these worries are unfounded. We have never had, nor do we plan to have, hostile intent to Council species.”
Public reaction in Council space is vehement.
“The Migrant Fleet has always lived on the edge of criminality,” popular blogger Feyro Derlan said. “But adding an axial gun to a liveship that’s who-knows-how-many kilometers long? That’s not a cause for worry, that’s terror worth soiling your pants over.”
Diana Allers is a war correspondent who appears regularly on ANN’s “Battlespace.”

Saturday, February 18

Friday, February 17

JJ Reviews: Demo of Mass Effect 3

Behold the Reapers.....
Got my hands on the demonstration run through of Mass Effect last night. Opening with what appears to be the start of the game I enjoyed a run through with Sheppard and the Admiral as they dodged the lazers of the initial Reapers whilst making their way to the Normandy.

The demo was a chance to meet James Vega and a new look Ashley who was sure giving wistful looks to her Commander !

Game play has been refined - your character can now jump, climb ladders and do the moonwalk which is pretty awesome. The game has cover based tactics kind of like Gears of War so I keep being frustrated when I tried Gears cover and roll tactics and getting caught out. It's either that or the mechanics are a little clunky.

The graphics both in game and cut scene are superb. The Xbox 360 has come a long way since Perfect Dark Zero eh? Characters displayed some incredible detail which bodes well for the many many characters we can expect to meet in the game's campaign.

In terms of the tone of the demo, the fact the game killed a little kid suggests the campaign will be a no holds barred story. Off course, the kid could have survived that laser blast and explosion and crash....

Monday, February 13

Halo 4 Master Chief has a cod piece.

So after a bit of grumbling on the internet it would appear the Master Chief of Halo 4 does have some kind of cod piece.....

Sylvia Feketekuty likes her Electric Six

Here's an interview from the Bioware Blog with one of the ME3 writers. Enjoy. 
Who are you and what is your role at BioWare?
My name is Sylvia Feketekuty, and I’m a writer. I’m responsible for story, dialogue, and game-related text. (The latter might include anything from signs in the Citadel to weapon descriptions to news stories set in the Mass Effect universe.) My first big game at BioWare will be Mass Effect 3.
What is the best part about your job?
The best part of my job is that this is basically what I’ve wanted to do since I was five.
I always get a thrill from seeing something I’ve written brought to life better than I could ever imagine. That’s due to the hard work of our cinematic designers, audio artists, editors, voice actors, composers, and a lot of other departments. Everyone on these big creative projects tends to go on about how great it feels to work with dedicated, passionate people, but that’s because it’s so true. It’s hard to describe the energy when that collaborative process is in full swing, but there’s nothing else like it.
What does an average day look like for you?
It changes depending on what stage the project is in. Some of the things I’ve done during Mass Effect 3’s development: brainstorm story pitches, write dialogue, rewrite dialogue, look through high-level feedback, meet with level designers to iterate on that feedback, play test, pitch ideas to devs from other departments, hunt for bugs, tweak weapon-mod descriptions, try to fix my own bugs, etc…
Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments working in game development?
I’m proud to have been one of the writers on “Lair of the Shadow Broker,” a downloadable mission for Mass Effect 2. “Lair” was the best learning experience I could have asked for in terms of preparing to work on ME3, since it was a compressed work cycle with huge support from the rest of the team. Reading the feedback once it was released was another good learning experience. It was useful to see what resonated with different fans, what didn’t, and why they thought it didn’t.
What’s a geeky thing about you?
I play a lot of pen and paper role-playing games. I started back in college, and it probably helped get me my current job. Some of my favorite systems and settings are Call of Cthulhu (both Chaosium BRP and D20 Modern), Over the Edge, Paranoia, Spirit of the Century, Unknown Armies, and D&D’s Planescape. Shadowrun also has a special place in my heart as one of the first RPGs I ever played (and died horribly in).
I play a lot of board games, too. My current favorite is Cosmic Encounter, an amazing game with a 34-year history. I’ve also fallen in love again with a quick, dice-based game called Button Men. (For any other Button Men fans out there, you can find printable versions of the players online for free. How cool is that?)
Do you have any advice for those wishing to get into the video game industry?
Try creating a game of your own. There’s a lot of community-supported game-making software out there. Even if what you put together ends up small and basic, you’ll learn a lot about working in an interactive medium. It’ll really help you figure out where your strengths and interests lie. You’ll also have a lot of fun, too, between the bouts of frustration. Adjust what you have to, and don’t give up!
I’d also encourage people to read as much as possible. Research topics you find interesting. Pick up a classic. Open up a play, or a movie script, or a travelogue if you’ve never checked one out before. Reading widely helps you become more creatively well-rounded, and that’s a trait developers always love to see.
If you weren’t working in the industry, what would you be doing?
Trying to get into it.
What are you currently playing, reading, or listening to?
Playing: Dark Souls. Also finishing up Fallout: New Vegas’ Lonesome Road DLC.
Reading: “Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus” by Rick Perlstein, and “The Incomplete Nifft” by Michael Shea.
Listening: I’ve been listening to an awful lot of the Electric Six lately.

Friday, February 10

Cammy White from Street Fighter as cosplay

cammy white streetfighter sexy

Cammy White, is a popular character from the hugely sucessful Street Fighter arcade game series. Cammy made her first appearance Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers and was the second female added to the franchise - the famous Chun Li was of course the first female character in the game.

cammy white streetfighter cosplay

Given Cammy's assets, she's a natural target for the cosplayer family and here's some pretty hot photos of what the cosplay gods have deemed 'camtastic'.

big breasted babe cammy street fighter
Just chillin'

cammy white streetfighter breasts
What you staring at?

cammy white streetfighter costume
Cammy and Chun Li cosplayers joing forces

Not to be confused with Pippy Longstocking!

cammy white streetfighter hot
You can call me Ms Cammy White....

Thursday, February 9

Frankie's Ship Just Got Real

Frankie from 343 who is in charge of Halo has this to say. 

Ship Just Got Real
Obviously we've been working on the game in earnest for a long time, but it's all starting to feel pretty real to me now. Campaign is playable from start to finish (not to be confused with complete or polished) and multiplayer has been running for a while. It's amazing to see changes big and small have a dramatic effect on making the game smoother, more playable and more enjoyable in almost every session.

Personally I have been traveling a fair amount in support of the impending year-long launch activity. Visiting with our partners and colleagues in Europe to talk (and walk) them through the game, the features, the U.S. marketing plans and the sheer scale of the project. We certainly surprised some folks with the ambition and concrete realization of where we're at, but it was kind of cool to see genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the game.

Our show and tell was pretty BIG, since the European partners (marketing, retail guys, etc.) need as much information as is available to make their plans and start building the path to launch abroad. So they went from knowing practically nothing about the game, to knowing practically everything about it. Which is a weird feeling when you expend so much effort and energy on security and secrecy. It's amazing how much detail you need to go into. It's not good enough to simply list off the changes and additions and improvements, you have to contextualize them. It's been almost five years since Halo 3 and a LOT of stuff has happened between then and now: ODST, Reach, multiple map packs, loads of story and a whole swathe of technical and gameplay changes.

Creating material to explain those changes, walking people through the game features - showing them a lot of this stuff in action, it's fun, but it's nerve-wracking. In a way it's a preview of our public showings, where we get a feel for which changes, which additions, which refinements are going to get people excited. It's also a chance to get a feel for which new features are complicated and how to distill the explanations to capture the essence of what we're making. Training wheels, as it were, for showing you guys.

Launching a game is a massive undertaking, with literally hundreds of people all over the world preparing and planning to make sure that every aspect, from the box art to the matchmaking, is executed flawlessly. And if it seems slow, ponderous, even, then remember that there's a plan and a process, and that you'll see Halo 4 soon enough. And we can't wait to share it with you.


Saturday, February 4

Can Commander Sheppard hook up with Jessica Chobot in ME3?

jessica chobot mass effect
No, but he'd like to.

Mass Effect 3 Achievements / Trophies

London's burning...
Mass Effect 3 Achievements / Trophies

Keen Mass Effect fans might want to have a look at this list of Achievements and Trophies that are available to be sought out and earned in the campaign and multiplayer component. 

I'm pleased to see the Long Service Medal return - it's a nice reward for long time players. 

Be wary though, there's a few mild spoilers in there. 

Game Achievements and Trophies
Requirements, Bonuses, and Additional Info
Return to active duty.
Bringer of War
Chase down an assassin.
Bring a veteran officer aboard.
World Shaker
Destroy an Atlas dropped from orbit.
Explore a lost city.
Tunnel Rat
Survive the swarm.
Party Crasher
Sabotage a dreadnought.
Hard Target
Call down an orbital strike.
Disable a group of fighter squadrons.
Win a political stand-off.
Last Witness
Extract ancient technology.
Defeat an old adversary.
Well Connected
Send a warning across the galaxy.
Fact Finder
Uncover an enemy's monstrous origin.
Stop a Cerberus kidnapping.
Problem Solver
Evacuate a scientific facility.
Make the final assault.
Mission accomplished.
Visit a store in the single-player campaign.
Master and Commander
Deliver most of the Galaxy at War assets to the final conflict.
Lost and Found
Dispatch 10 probes to retrieve people or resources in Reaper territory.
Long Service Medal
Complete Mass Effect 3 twice, or once with a Mass Effect 2 import.
Finish the game on Insanity without changing difficulty after leaving Earth.
A Personal Touch
Modify a weapon.
Establish or rekindle a romantic relationship.
Combined Arms
Perform any combination of 50 biotic combos or tech bursts.
Evolve any of your powers to rank 6.
Kill 250 enemies.
Kill 1,000 enemies.
Kill 5,000 enemies.
Kill 100 enemies with melee attacks.
Escape a Reaper in the galaxy map.
Attain the highest level of readiness in each theater of war.
Overload Specialist
Overload the shields of 100 enemies.
Sky High
Lift 100 enemies off the ground with powers.
Set 100 enemies on fire with powers.
Eye of the Hurricane
Kill a Brute while it's charging you.
Mail Slot
Kill 10 guardians with headshots from the front while their shields are raised.
Hijack an Atlas mech.
Giant Killer
Defeat a harvester.
Start a character in multiplayer or customize a character in single-player.
Tour of Duty
Finish all multiplayer maps or all N7 missions in single-player.
Always Prepared
Obtain two non-customizable suits of armor.
Complete one multiplayer match or two N7 missions.
Complete three multiplayer matches or five N7 missions.
Upgrade any weapon to level 10.
Almost There
Reach level 15 in multiplayer or level 50 in single-player.
Peak Condition
Reach level 20 in multiplayer or level 60 in single-player.
Battle Scarred
Promote a multiplayer character to the Galaxy at War or import an ME3 character.
Finish all multiplayer maps on Gold or all single-player missions on Insanity.