Yes, I realize that Mass Effect 2 hasn’t even been out for a month, but once a sane human being beats Mass Effect 2, the only logical response is to want to play Mass Effect 3. The only problem with this thought process is that there currently no finished copy of the game available on the consumer market at the moment. Heck, who knows how developed it is by this point. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to play the inevitable sequel and make a wish list for what I want in this game. Here were some of the more “fully-formed” ideas that I had.

Shift the focus back to missions- Decisions mean everything in the world of Mass Effect, the focus of these decisions over the course of the series. While Mass Effect 1 focused on Commander Shepard resolving colonial issues, Mass Effect focused on your teammates. The story of the game changed on who you recruited, when you recruited them, how you got them to join you, whether or not you gained their loyalty, and their survival on the final mission. Now that Commander Shepard has the trust of whoever survived the Collector attack, it’s time to bring Shepard’s team back to the visible action.

Involve the Reapers early- At end of Mass Effect 2, the gamer learns that a vast army of Reapers are amassing near habitable space. The best thing that Bioware could do is have the Reapers be a threat right off the bat. Since they cannot disengage all communications via the Citadel anymore, how about opening the game with a few dozen worlds having already fallen to outright invasion? Since Shepard is the best equipped agent in the galaxy, he will be at the forefront of what’s happening. So it will be up to him to lead a united attack against them. How they do it is up to the player.

Bring back classic characters as squad mates- Yeah, the majority of the ME2 cast ate the ME1 for lunch, Kaiden Alenko anyone? But the game should definitely reward you trying to save Wrex in ME1. If the old side-kicks cannot be available for whole game, they could have featured mission, Like helping Liara attack the Shadow Broker.

Add a few new squad mates- Half the fun of a Bioware game is the conversations and the best ones usually happen with your squad mates. Supporting characters in Bioware games aren’t good characters, but they all prove to be a font of back story as well. Meeting new characters is a fun staple of Mass Effect Universe. Keep that going strong.

Steal a few pages from the Dragon Age: Origins- DA used a different morality system then Mass Effect. Unlike Mass Effect which weighted each decision based off of paragon and renegade choices, Dragon Age preferred a system where you weren’t judged on morality, rather how much each party member liked your choices. Bringing different people encouraged different results in your missions, something that pleased a corrupt shape-shifter often upset an honest knight. Leaving team mates off missions whose ethics clashed with yours was usually a solid way to keep them neutral.

My god, I might be a geek.

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The Pizza Wars

17Feb10

So Papa John’s has a limited time offer going on right now where you can get any large, one-topping pizza for ten dollars, before taxes of course. As I was writing this sentence, a Little Caesar’s ad came on the television, asking about 5.99 for a large pizza. Domino’s has that new aggressive campaign to advertise their new-style pizza. It seems like every other commercial these days is for pizza. I can understand that they churned out more TV spots in time to generate interest for Super Bowl parties, but c’mon, that was a week ago. Those jewelry ads disappeared the day after Valentine’s Day. This is also especially hard for me, because as a good New Yorker I crave pizza constantly. It’s not like these chains can really sate my appetite for rich, flavorful sauce and high-quality toppings, so it amounts to something not unlike Chinese water torture.

So back to Papa John’s, why were they charging ten dollars for an unlimited topping pizza? That kind of stuff fucks with one’s brain. Is delivery pizza’s price jacked up too high or it is it so cheap that they don’t lose any money by charging that price? Does thinking too hard about put me in further risk? My head hurts.


There are some things that deserve a second chance. There are other things that are unfit for the eyes to see, ears to hear, or mouth to taste. These are the things that are dead to me. Elements created by our own popular culture that I have decided add nothing positive to my existence, so if I could I would rather pretend that they never existed. This will be a continuing feature. But one thing that you should take in mind, my rants consist of items that have failed but still need to be acknowledged. This list will be small and compact, but it should never exist. The inaugural inductees are:

1)Kings of Leon- I believe that it was my junior year of high school when I first heard “The Bucket”, the new single from Kings of Leon. I was impressed that those yokels from Nashville had actually crafted a quality song. My freshmen year of college, the Kings released their best album yet. But what the hell happened these couple of years? Why did they right a song called “Sex on Fire”? Why did they decide to be the country U2? Why are they now so insanely popular as they grind into mediocrity? Unbelievable.

2)Heroes- This was another case of something which started out quite good and wound up sucking. NBC has pretty much given Heroes the kiss of death, two years too late in my opinion. After a solid first season, Heroes could not capitalize on their new found popularity and turned one of the few superpower shows on television into a convoluted soap opera with limited characters. How could a superhero show be so boring? Just ask Tim Kring, whose guidance of this show over the past few years begs the question how he came up with such a great idea, yet never got his on-screen product past the quality of the premise. Pitiful.

3) The Duke-UNC rivalry- Yes, I watched the game the other day and it was one of the sloppiest games I’ve seen in years. Yes, I go to school in North Carolina, but how am I really supposed to pick between these two when they play? It’s like having to pick between being eaten by vultures or a giant snake; you can either be picked at for hours or be slowly crushed until you run out of air. Two evil programs with an almost robotic consistency (and for those of you who correctly point out that UNC sucks this year, we all know they will be back next year), its just never fun to watch those teams play, because one of them has to win. Unbearable.

4) CSI Miami- I’ve never been that in to episodic television programs, my preference being shows based of character arcs and a continued narrative. Law & Order maybe the most ubiquitous procedural show on right now, thanks to cable, but CSI Miami takes the word “suck” to a whole new level. Keep in mind, that CBS created an additional CSI show after Miami (New York), which consistently beats Miami in the ratings. Of all of the CSIs, Miami is the most over-the-top, self-indulgent, and over-sexed of the CSI shows. David Caruso’s character is one of the least likable television detectives of the modern era and the rest of the cast are far too pretty to be forensic experts. Here’s another thing, there is no police department in these United States that issues forensic experts firearms and has them do on-site procedural work (like tracking down leads and interviewing suspects). Forensic guys collect samples at the scene and analyze results in the lab, which can be kinda dull. Annoying.

5) Charles Barkley’s work with Taco Bell- Okay, did they set out to make the dumbest commercial to ever be processed by the human mind? Because they succeeded! Ness and Soup spent the entire Super Bowl waiting for that ad. Needless to say, it disappointed. At the same time, every time I see that ridiculous ad, I get very hungry just seeing how much is in that five dollar box. Damn it.


Why the fuck is Ice-T, songwriter of the hip-hop crossover hit “Cop Killer”, a detective on this show anyway?


So classes are taking up a lot of my time now. But I promised some people, so I’m now going to do the quintessential Mass Effect right here, and right now. Mass Effect was probably my favorite video game from the last decade. A sci-fi, role-playing game that combined real-time shooter levels with cinematic third-person conversations. You play as Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre (think a mixture of Jedi knight and Double 0 Agent) tasked by the galaxy’s ruling council of aliens to track down a rogue agent. Needless to say, the mission is a success that paves the way for Mass Effect 2.

The closet normal world comparison that I would make with the Mass Effect is those old “choose your adventure” books. Yes, you have to guide Shepard from point a to b, but there are multiple ways to do it. Each conversation in the game is based off a wheel of selections, you get multiple options on the next step with each conversation. Most of the choices are based off of paragon or renegade selections, so it’s up to you whether you want to be Luke Skywalker, Jack Bauer, or someone in between. You can also be a female Shepard as well, so the game really lets you create your own character.

But what makes Mass Effect the whole package is the universe. Underneath the plot line there is an extensive backstory. There are over ten sentient alien races in Mass Effect, each one has a distinctive look, culture, and history. New races introduced in this game include the Vorcha, who are feral, rodent-like scavengers and the Drell, philosophical amphibians with perfect memory. The game world has an underlying intelligence to it, which makes the dialogue just as interesting as the combat.

The goal in ME2 is to recruit a team of crack operatives for a possible suicide mission to save the galaxy from certain, impending annihilation. How you interact with these characters is your choice, some respond better to certain actions. An example would at one point you pick up an alien clone kept in a suspended-animation tank. It’s your choice whether or not to open the tank, but if you do, the alien will jump right out at you and pin you against the wall. A conversation opens up and while the goal is convince him to fight for you, if he gets too wild, you have to kill him.

One of Bioware’s talents as a video game designer is building up tension and ME2 takes this to a whole new level. My first play-through of the game, with the Shepard I beat the game with, I was on pins and needles the entire time, saving often and second guessing every single choice I made. Many of the other characters are mercenaries, assassins, and psychopaths; which was in direct conflict with my Shepard who plays it by the book. But that made it all the better when I completed the loyalty missions for them and understood their motives a bit more.

It is also possible to woo the members of your crew. Each gender of Shepard has three different romance options, the female Shepard having two alien suitors….oh boy. But like the rest of the game, the romance is handled with maturity and…

Well, that’s interesting. Yeah, the game has it’s flaws and peculiarities. As much as a gamer as I am, I’m stick not completely sure of the place of sex in video games yet. But you have to hand it to Bioware for trying. Also, this is a long fucking game. A normal play-through lasts at least 25 hours and that’s not even including all of the side missions.


Transition

08Feb10

So yeah, I’m still in a funk over Conan losing his show. Yeah, yeah, I know, the Olympics are starting soon and the Super Bowl just happened. Who still cares about Conan now? Me! I cannot wait to see just what he is going to wind up doing next

Jack Danger and I are starting to move the machinations forward that will get our short film made. Director Danger (You can call him Jack), only wants to make three changes to my revised script. So that is nothing short of a miracle and blessing as a young writer to have that creative support from the director. We’re trying to get a cast together now, hopefully we will know who’ve got for this by the end of the week. It all really comes down to who can play crazy well and who can have a little bit of fun with what they do.

I recently started to compose my first non-fiction story for an advanced creative writing course for this semester. Hopefully it’s going to come out okay. If I had a specialty, I think it would be fiction. But that thought most likely stems from having no “training” with this particular medium. If only there were some standard to go from here. The story is a good one, but often an author gets concerned about the “what if”. When you’re submitting a treatment for fifteen other skeptics to evaluate, everybody wants to put out something that’s substance rather then folly. Fingers crossed.


I’ve always enjoyed Conan O’Brien’s brand of quirky, self-deprecating humor, it’s what sets him apart from the other late night hosts. So when I found out five years ago that Jay Leno was going to retire so that Conan could take the reigns of the Tonight Show, the future looked set. Little did I know about the downturn which has become even worse over the past few years. NBC never really shrugged off the loss of ratings pullers like Friends and Frazier. Then there was the baffling decision to put Leno at 10…grrr, it just keeps getting worse.

So it looks like Conan is out on his ass at the Tonight Show, he’s going to have to hand the show back over to Leno after less then a year. O’Brien and Andy Richter made a joke the other night that the show had reached its .6 year anniversary, that’s terrifying. I find it astonishing that even in our hyper-impatient culture a network couldn’t even let one it’s most promising future assets go like that. Yes, Conan’s ratings during the November sweeps were the worst in years, but what do you expect? Leno’s numbers stunk when he first got started on Tonight. Conan almost got canceled one or two times during his first couple of years on Late Night because of terrible numbers, but eventually Conan was able to get a sizable consistent audience at the 12:30 slot. Why couldn’t that work again? Conan promised the potential for a future consistent audience. There was always going to be a slack period.

By the way, I would have to say that Conan has consistently thrived on the Tonight Show. His charming enthusiasm to be hosting the show was surrounded by funny jokes and fun, new bits like “Twitter Tracker”. These past couple of weeks have been among the best ever. There have been multiple guest stars making fun of him, memory segments recalling classic skits from the past nine months, all under a cloud of sarcasm. To quote Conan, “Remember kids, you can be anything you want…just as along as Jay Leno doesn’t want to be it.”