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February 9, 2012

For the past few days I’ve stayed a step ahead of miserable sickness.  I went to bed super early and NyQuil knocked me out….for about seven hours.  I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t really fall back asleep.  My whole ‘get more sleep than usual’ plan isn’t working too great.  Despite that though, I’ve been stuck on minor sniffles and the occasional sneeze for like three days now.  So I wonder, does long incubation and gradual symptoms mean this thing is gonna last for weeks?  Or does it mean it’s mild enough to go away quietly?

I can barely keep my head up.  Might just start typing random thoughts.  I gotta nap before raid.

Amalur came out today.  I was going back and forth about getting it but I think Mass Effect 3 wins.  There are plenty of other games to scratch my fantasy RPG itch but not many franchises like Mass Effect.  Plus it’s a game that doesn’t demand all my time.  It’s like picking a really good two hour movie over a long running series you’ve always enjoyed.  WoW will always be my long running series, but if Mass Effect was a movie I might be one of those guys lined up around the block for the midnight showing.  And then I wouldn’t miss a beat with my favorite show.

We argue here at work over which game in the series is better.  I say argue but really it’s me versus all the other nerds in the bay.  I say 1 was better because of the storytelling method and the atmosphere.  I always talk about how important atmosphere is, and that’s what people play a game like that for, story and atmosphere.  ME1 was a brand new universe and you were being introduced to all the cool new species and locations and technology at the same time as trying to figure out the mystery involving the central characters.  Basically you discovered things as they did.  And the environment felt authentic for the most part.  Humans discover these new technologies and encounter a bunch of other spacefaring races.  As the plot is happening they’re still trying to find their place in it all.  They encounter prejudice against them, and the player character encounters a lot of human prejudice against other species.

Here’s the story in a nutshell (with some spoilers): Humans in the year 2148 sent a manned mission to Mars where they discovered some sort of small research station built by a long extinct species.  It included a bunch of data that allowed human technology to leap forward.

The mechanism for this (one of the better macguffins in my opinion) is the discovery is a new universal force that relates to dark matter.  Using it we can raise or lower the mass (or energy) of everything in a particular area, called a mass effect field.  They leave it open for interpretation just enough, but it still sounds slightly believable, which I think is awesome.

In the data of the now extinct advanced species they also discovered the location of these things called mass relays that allow quick travel between one another.  So pretty soon humans start colonizing the galaxy.

The humans are using all these mass relays to explore without really realizing the dangers involved.  Unknown to them is the ruling body of a good portion of the galaxy, called the council.  They’ve outlawed using a mass relay without knowing knowing where it leads, because not long ago it led to a huge war with a previously unknown hostile species.  So one of the council races, called the Turians, happen upon the humans opening up a dormant relay and attack them, and the humans don’t know why.

This starts a conflict in which a human colony gets destroyed and the human navy eventually counterattacks and beats the crap out of the Turians.  This sort of introduction colors the galaxy’s opinion of humans in a couple of ways: even though they are not very technologically advanced, they’re seen as power-hungry and reckless.  But the humans’ military and economy are unusually strong, especially given the species’ relatively small numbers.  Other species are suspicious of humans, and wary of how quickly they are advancing.

So the game starts in this setting, and everything that happens in the plot, including the player’s interaction with all sorts of different species, happens with this in mind.  Your character spends the game traveling around the galaxy in the flagship of the human fleet, which was built with the help of several different races, and in a sense you are proving to everyone the worth of the human race.

And that ancient race that the humans got their technology from?  Turns out they are a mystery to all the other races too.  Their ruins are scattered all across the galaxy, and it appears that their technology at one time far exceeded our own.  Then they went extinct.  However, nobody knows why.

The first game throws you in to the story at this point.  You are sent to investigate a particularly well preserved ruin on a human colony world.

I guess I like the first game better because it took pains to present this (in my opinion) believable vision of the future.  And it lets you fly to some unknown solar system and if a planet is safe enough to land on, you can land on it and fly around, just to see what’s there.  Which is something I always wanted to do in real life.  I probably won’t live to see the day when humans do this for real, so I’ll have to make do with our feeble simulations.

Not to get too philosophical but I want the future to be full of cool, weird looking aliens and technology that is so advanced it looks like magic to me.  I want an ancient civilization to visit earth and tell us that all our usual problems have been solved thousands of years ago.  That from now on nobody will ever go hungry or get sick or be lonely, and now the purpose of life, for everyone, is to explore and invent and create and learn.

I don’t mean to gloss over the story in the actual game, it is quite good as well.  It introduces a very satisfying mystery and a villain that doesn’t disappoint.  I just think it’s best experienced in the game.

This kept me awake till the end of work.  Time for a nap and raid.

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