IPL Day 2 (aka Vegas Day 3)

Today I woke up with a plan. Despite running on about 5.5 hours of sleep (again), I wanted to go watch a bunch of Starcraft. And I did.

Woke up, putzed around, responded to some threads on various forums, checked email, etc. Had a shower, and got ready. Headed out to the Cosmopolitan for more SC2.

I was first in line for the VIP group again (yay!). So I enjoyed my breakfast muffin while I sat on my ass waiting for it to open. Funnily enough the League of Legends line actually wound around past the corner and started overlapping with the SC2 line. Was pretty amusing.

I saw Painuser, HD, Catspajamas, and Idra walk by while I was in line. At one point the poor security guard almost stopped StarTale Virus from entering the venue because he didn't know what a "player" was. Poor guy :(

Finally the gates opened and I actually walked in the door next to Idra. I wished him luck during the matches today, and he thanked me. He seemed in good spirits even though (as I found out later) he was already down 0-3 in his group. Was cool though.

They were having technical difficulties in the morning, and after the first game Painuser's mic was left on and you could hear him say "Fucking Anything!". The crowd laughed and Painuser made a trollface. It was good times. Despite the huge amount of technical difficulties in the morning, it worked out okay. I would eventually leave after watching NesTea dismantle Ganzi to tie their series at 1-1. NesTea would go on to win that series (duh).

For dinner we went to Binions Steak House. The food was pretty good, but not nearly as good as my dad's BBQ. I dunno. Maybe I'm just spoiled. After dinner Chelsea's boyfriend (Sam) and I headed back to the Cosmo to catch the GSTL finals. That shit was crraaazzzzzy. MKP would go on to take out 4 straight members of StarTale, despite some controversy surrounding having to regame the first match vs Parting.

After it was over some little kid got lost so they had to lock us all in. Since I had VIP seating I had the good fortune to be sitting 4 rows behind the Blizzard contingent (Mike Morhaime, Dustin Browder, etc.). So I was standing there looking at Mike chatting with people and eventually said "fuck it". I hopped 3 rows of chairs and leaned over the 4th to shake Mike's hand and thank him for making such amazing games. He thanked me for the support and I was super happy with myself. In retrospect I probably should've asked him to tell GC to give me a pony, but I digress.

I saw Sir Scoots there as well so I worked up the courage to go say hi to him as well. He was super nice and we had a brief chat about how EG had done at IPL4. I'm hoping I'll be able to repay his kindness with a drink sometime this weekend, but I gotta find him again first. Apparently there's tons of stuff to talk about on this weeks LO3, so it should be fun to watch.

Lastly I caught up with Scarlett and told her that I hope she keeps playing and I thought that her run through the open bracket was super cool. Unfortunately I forgot to ask if she would like to participate in Oestrus' podcast (I fail) but hopefully I'll be able to catch up with her again tomorrow to ask.

The GSTL finals were amazing. Production was a notch above IPL4 for sure. Koreans sure know how to put on a show. Wow.

After the GSTL my friends and I went for minor drinks and some penny slots. I lost $10 :(

Lets see what happens tomorrow!


IPL4 - Day 1 (aka Vegas Day 2)

I almost forgot to write this.

I meant to last night but ended up spending a couple hours watching TV before crashing.

So yesterday was a fucking FANTASTIC day. Roll out of bed and get ready to head off to IPL4. I had originally intended to pick up some breakfast before heading over the Cosmopolitan, but everywhere had a lineup a mile long (figure of speech).

I didn't have that much time to waste on it so I just went straight there, figured I'd pick up some baked goods or something. There's a little basically "on-the-run" shop on the 2nd floor of the Cosmo that I picked some grub up at. The chocolate croissant was delicious, however their "Orange Juice" wasn't orange juice. It was some sort of disgusting tropical fruit thing that I immediately threw out. Blech.

So I get upstairs to the registration desk and pick up my badge. It's a regular spectator pass though. Odd. I start looking for the SC2 entrance. Basically nothing going on in terms of signage (wtf IPL), so it took me about 15-20 minutes to finally figure out the SC2 main stage was in the "Chelsea" hall - hahaha irony.

I ask the nice guy at the door about VIP passes. Turns out the registration desk had given me the wrong pass. /sigh. Go back, get right pass. Much better.

Get back in line and I start to feel at home in nerd-dom. The security guard at the door has never heard of SC2 before, but is interested to know what all the fuss is about. Pretty cool lady. Had a lot of fun chatting with her and the other nerds in line. There was one physically disabled person there that had just gotten back from a trip around the world to talk to other disabled gamers and how they play. I thought that was super awesome, and we chatted about who we thought was going to win. We agreed that MKP was likely to take it.

Doors open, and I get to walk right TO THE FRONT. I was literally 6 feet from the stage. I'm not shitting you. I took a bunch of pictures from where I was sitting and uploaded them to Bookface. It's shared globally so I'm pretty sure everyone can see them.

The games were pretty good overall. Some were obviously better than others. NesTea and MKP looked incredibly dominant. Poor White-Ra :(

The problem though is the casting was kind of lackluster. Other than Painuser and HDStarcraft it was kinda....."meh". I don't think Doa and dApollo are a good match, and I think the tournament suffered from not having Day[J], Tastosis, Wheat, or Rob Simpson casting. Also the lack of "analysis desk" that MLG has kinda hurts. I still get a lot out of it since I know what's going on in SC2, but anyone that might be checking out the stream for the first time, or is new to SC2 would be lost I think. Even with Anna Prosser and Rachel Quirico (SeltzerPlease) there, still not enough.

Regardless I'm looking forward to day 2!


So Vegas.

I've never been before so I had no idea what to expect. I mean I'd seen it on TV and movies a bunch, but I had no idea what it would be like in real life. It's fun sure, but it's a TON more fun if you come with a significant other. Fair warning I'm extremely drunk right now and listening to The Guild songs.

I was convinced to come down here by my roommate Chelsea, who is one of the most awesome people alive. There was this flight/hotel deal at the Ballagio, so we booked for Easter weekend. At first glance it didn't seem like something I'd be terribly interested in. Then I find out IPL4 was going to be held the same weekend. In Vegas.

I was stoked. Even more so after watching the LO3 from yesterday. Apparently the open bracket is going to be sick, and I GET TO WITNESS ALL OF IT.

If you didn't know by now I'm a passionate fan of eSports. Day<9> is my hero. Tasteless is king of the nerds (behind Deadmau5 of course), and DRG is my favourite player. Suffice to say I was extremely stoked once I heard that IPL4 was going to be the same weekend as I was already going to Vegas. Granted I was a little dissapointed that my favourite people (DjWheat, Tasteless, Artosis, EGiNcOntroL) were going to PAX East, but still. Tons of awesome happening here.

Now that I've been here for an entire day I have some thoughts on Vegas itself.
  • It's WAY better if you go with a significant other. WAY better. I'm here with a bunch of my friends (practically all of whom are couples), and yeah. Way better if you come as a pair.
  • OMG THE SMOKING INDOORS. I don't think I could handle coming back here, and I thank god that I'm going to be spending most of my time at IPL4. I don't think I'll come back here unless it's with a group of friends, and I'm attached.
  • The music at the clubs (at least those I experienced) is kinda meh. Sorta dissapointing really. The clubs in Victoria have better music (wtf).
  • Food is largely overpriced. Which again is dissapointing. Coming from someone that makes a habit of staying at 5-star hotels in Vancouver that's saying something.
  • DRINKS ARE FUCKING EXPENSIVE. A Red-Bull-Vodka cost me like $15 in Vegas. Back home (Victoria) it's only like $10. Maybe.
  • I vastly prefer locations where I know all of the people are nerds (ie. Blizzcon). Chilling out with Lissanna, Sunnier, Murmurs, Oestrus, Perculia, and others was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had.
You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to experiencing IPL4. Not to mention Blizzcon next year, when hopefully ALL of Team Waffle will be there /crossfingers. Man that would be some sick shit. Imagine having this list of people in a room together:
  • Me
  • Lissanna
  • Reesi
  • Clay
  • Rona
  • Sunnier
  • Murmurs
  • Allison Roberts
  • Alaron?
  • Fasc?
  • Juvenate
  • Beru?
Talk about epic Druid meetup. Although now I'm just daydreaming. IPL4 day 1 to follow tomorrow


Mass Effect 3 - So this is still burning

So apparently this whole ending controversy is still burning. Wonder how many bits of internet it will consume before it finally dies out.

I've already made my thoughts clear on how I feel about the ending. The thing is now the major publications are starting to weigh in. Unfortunately most of them are completely missing the point.

People aren't upset "just because". There are legitimate problems with the ending. I won't go into them since you can read about them here, or better yet, here. But this isn't a post to say whether or not the ending was good or bad. This is a post to question those who are coming out and categorically saying you cannot change the ending of "art".

I say "Why the fuck not?"

Many people are holding up examples of things in other media that didn't end as fans had hoped. Lost, and the Matrix trilogy are the most common examples. The thing is these same people are lumping games into the same molding as other forms of media. Games aren't the same. No other form of media (short of a choose-your-own-adventure book) relies on customer/fan/player interaction to move the story forward. Sure you can point out any number of choose-your-own-adventure books that are equally "meh" in their endings, but I challenge you to find me a 6 thousand pager. Go on. I'll wait.

They don't exist.

Games are a unique form of expression, and yes they are art. However just because they are art doesn't mean they aren't subject to the unique form of feedback that games are. Dan Stapleton wrote a brief piece on a few games that were "changed" by the developers (and one that was a fan creation) for quite frankly, reasons which are far inferior than those cited for Mass Effect 3. The overwhelming majority of people are looking for more explanation and/or exposition than what was provided. We're not "demanding" a complete re-write or anything insane, we're just looking for more information.

The great (and I'm not being sarcastic here) Ray Muzyka himself posted a message to players expressing his concern over the reaction to the ending. Queue craziness from almost every major gaming news site. Has anyone ever stopped to consider that maybe they're concerned that people didn't understand the intended message? What if they set the bar too high for their players, and a huge number of them sailed under it?

What if they're just trying to help people understand what the intended message was? Is that really so bad?

The closest thing for me in recent memory is the ending of the Stargate SG-1 teevee series. It ended long before the story was actually finished, and a lot of unknowns were still floating around. The thing is the nature of teevee (and movies, and books) makes it almost impossible to add more exposition once the end is reached. However a couple of direct-to-dvd movies followed that tied up the remaining loose threads (even if they were kinda quick). Of course this is analogous to the DLC that Ray mentions in his open letter.

Is it preferable to get the message across the first time? Obviously.

If you fail, does that mean it's impossible to try again? Absolutely not.


Mass Effect 3 - It All Comes Down To The End

I've been thinking about writing something like this ever since I finished my first play through of Mass Effect 3. There's been a number of opinions floating around about the ending, with some people going so far as to start a fundraiser for Child's Play to draw awareness to the "issue". I use quotes because the majority of the critics out there including Dan Stapleton - EIC of Gamespy, and a number of the PCGamer editorial staff (PC Gamer Podcast US#309) strongly believe in the developer's right to end their stories in a way they see fit.

However a few others such as Ross Lincoln from Gamefront agree with what is largely a "grass-roots" gaming movement. What do I think? Well it's somewhere between the two.

The thing is you can't really discuss the ending in a vacuum. That completely invalidates the entire experience you took to get to that point. So let's start with combat.


Combat is easily the best yet in the series. All classes are viable and even have more than one "build" that can be used, with one typically favouring melee combat and one favouring ranged and/or powers. Speaking of melee combat it has been significantly improved with a new "Heavy Melee" attack. This attack uses Shepard's Omni Tool to generate a special attack that depends on class. A Soldier for instance uses a simple but effective blade, while an Engineer uses a blade infused with blazing heat.

Enemy AI has also drastically improved. Melee fodder units such as Husks will charge your lines while basic infantry units like Cannibals lob grenades to force you out of cover. Each faction also functions differently. Cerberus prefers a slow methodical advance behind smoke grenades and Guardians. Reapers will continually throw melee units at your front line to attempt to break it. Geth are a mix between the two, but largely preferring to engage from range with Rocket Troopers and Primes.

As always the 5 main types of weapons remain, but this time there are far more choices for each one. Not only that, but there are 5 different types of mods for each weapon. Of those mods you can pick two to put in your weapon at any given time. Armor customization is probably the best it has ever been with different pieces you can mix and match your own set from, or you can use a complete set of armor that is meant to work together. On top of that you can pick colours and patterns to individualize your Shepard even further, at least beyond the normal face customization.

Bioware listened to the criticisms of past games when it came to the combat, and it shows in just how much it has improved in the final installment.

Character Interactions
(or ArrPeeGee-Ness)

Unsurprisingly Mass Effect 3 also "turns it up to 11" with regards to interactions with different characters. The quality of the voice over work is probably the best I've seen yet in any game. In particular Jennifer Hale (FemShep), Ali Hillis (Liara), Brandon Keener (Garrus), Tricia Helfer (EDI), Martin Sheen (Illusive Man), Seth Green (Joker), Mark Meer (ManShep and especially Mordin Solus), Courtenay Taylor (Jack), and Ash Sroka (Tali) all hit it out of the park (to say the least). Obviously it doesn't stop there, the direction and rest of the voice cast also performed extremely well. Even Jessica Chobot (Diana Allers) who admittedly raised some eyebrows initially, also performed her role as an Alliance News reporter very well.

Something that was relatively new to Mass Effect, and even Bioware, are ambient conversations that take place around the Normandy. These add the kind of banter we've come to expect from Bioware games, without necessarily forcing them to happen "in party" so-to-speak.

Almost every character that you have run into by the time you are playing ME3 will show up in one fashion or another. Some you will actually interact with in the game, while others show up in news messages you read on the Normandy. This sense of being a part of the universe itself is why Mass Effect is so amazing.

Bioware has even taken it a step further this time with its new "ME3Datapad" iOS application. This free app extends the experience to your Apple device, allowing characters in the game to send you what amounts to "tweets". Not only that, but these messages are directly related to the events that happen within the game you are currently playing. For people (like myself) that value this sort of interaction with the universe it's a truly amazing idea, and extremely well executed.

When it comes to the romances (which are really just character interactions that attempt a deeper emotional bond with the player), some are good, and others are not as great. Of the three games I have done so far both Garrus and Liara are extremely well written. Both take into account the events of Mass Effect 2, and both continue to act according to how those events played out. Ashley however ... not quite as good. She seems to have a giant goddamn chip on her shoulder for some reason, even though judging by the letter she sends in ME2 she got over it. Apparently not though as she continues to be aloof and well...quite bitchy for the majority of ME3.

  I've heard that both Kaidan and Tali are exceptional, but I have not had the chance to play that road yet myself. I plan to at some point though.

All in all however, ME3 does stand head and shoulders above the rest in this regard.

Evolution of Storytelling

I'm not going to sugar-coat this. ME3 is dark. Really dark. Characters will die. Very early on it's possible to have Mordin Solus (the Salarian scientist from ME2) sacrifice himself for the greater good. From what I've been able to find out, this only happens if certain conditions exist - otherwise it's possible to dissuade him. The very first time I watched helplessly as Mordin completes his work (much like Spock dying in Star Trek 2) it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt bad. I felt like I had lost a friend.

This theme continues throughout the game. Depending on your choices it's possible for other people to lose their lives as well, and you're helpless except to watch the consequences of your actions and wonder what you did wrong. I haven't been drawn into this sort of emotional response since ... well I don't really remember to be honest. I had never felt this sense of loss before - likely because I've never taken part in a series of interactive media that can span over 100 hours of actual playing.

It's not just the scenes either. The music is instrumental in drawing out these sorts of emotional reactions from the players. The musical score for Mass Effect 3 is easily the best in the series.

All of these elements combine to create a storytelling experience that frankly, has not yet been attempted. And Kudos to Bioware for doing an amazing job.

And It All Comes Crashing Down

Which leads us to the ending. All stories must eventually come to an end. Luke Skywalker defeated the Emperor and the Rebels destroyed the Death Star. Frodo destroyed the One Ring, defeating Sauron. Later he and his friends would return to the Shire to save it from its own corruption, before finally heading west over the Ocean. You'll notice that the two examples I used are from arguably the two most popular and beloved trilogies in popular culture, with Mass Effect set to become the third. The problem is, Mass Effect doesn't really end.

Many people are divided into two possible camps regarding the ending. It either did, or did not, actually happen. Personally I'm of the opinion that it was in fact an intentional attempt to mess with player's heads. The amount of evidence pointing to this as the desire is absolutely astounding. Mike B does a great job of laying it all out there for you to absorb. I encourage you to go watch that video, and I believe it will convince you. If that doesn't, then remember that the "actual" ending to Mass Effect 2 was the Arrival DLC, not the ending of the original game. This wouldn't be the first time.

The thing is, the only alternative to the "indoctrination theory" is that Bioware somehow intentionally created an ending that is so full of holes that you would be forgiven if you thought someone tossed a frag grenade at it. Past experience has shown me that great developers (like Bioware) adhere strongly to their canon, and don't intentionally suddenly decide it's all meaningless. I refuse to believe that actually happened.

Do I believe it was wrong to give us and ending that wasn't actually an ending? Yes. As Ross Lincoln states in the article above "That kind of terseness, in addition to just feeling cheap, also manages the particularly nasty trick of completely robbing players of closure." This is exactly how I felt after completing my first game. I was so confused by the ending that I literally just sat at my computer for almost an entire half-hour, at 3:30am. I wanted to know what happened to my Liara. How did she make it out alive? Why was Joker in a relay jump? How could I have been responsible for stranding her on some random alien planet?

I felt terrible. I wanted to cry. I actually felt so bad that I had to go back and re-do the ending just make a choice that Liara would've approved of.

And the same damn thing happened. At least this time a piece of me would always be with her though.

I don't particularly agree with the rest of his article, but the closure part definitely hit home with me. Apparently it also did with Casey Hudson as well. A post went up on the Bioware community site from Casey last night. In it he mentions "we also recognize that some of our most passionate fans needed more closure, more answers, and more time to say goodbye to their stories—and these comments are equally valid. Player feedback such as this has always been an essential ingredient in the development of the series." Some are quick to point out that this doesn't necessarily mean anything. I disagree.

Later on in the article Casey also mentions "An outpouring of love for Garrus and Tali led to their inclusion as love interests in Mass Effect 2. A request for deeper RPG systems led to key design changes in Mass Effect 3. Your feedback has always mattered. Mass Effect is a collaboration between developers and players, and we continue to listen." I choose to be optimistic.

I choose to believe that I will finally get closure.


DKKitty Relaunch

Hey Everyone,

So I've been wanting a place to write sort-of more personal view blogposts for a while. I've been hesitatnt to use TiB for that since it may be viewed as more of an "official" writing rather than just my own personal opinion.

So I've come back to use Death Kitty as my platform.

I'll admit that this was partially inspired by the whole "controversy" over the Mass Effect 3 ending(s) and my desire to add my voice to it. As such, I'll be putting something up tomorrow about my views on Mass Effect 3. It'll probably be really long but well (I hope) worth the read.

I've updated the style as well to be a bit more modern. Let me know what you think.



Arielle's Bear Threat Spreadsheet - V2.0

Hey kids,

I finally finished out v2.0 of my threat spreadsheet, which is up-to-date with 4.0.6a. I calc'ed out mangle (within a 0.0005% variance - which is good enough for me) and added it to the sheet.

While doing so, I found another bug.

The base damage of Mangle is not multiplied by MSS. It's nothing game breaking or anything, but I mean, come on. It can't be that hard to miss. That's just fucking pathetic.


Here's the sheet yo.