Life in a Wormhole: What’s your favorite flavor of PI? #eveonline

It seems like everyone in the EvE blogoverse is talking about Planetary Interaction right now, and since I’m wrestling with setting up something like forty PI colonies right now, I figured I’d share the tiny little bit of information I’ve learned on the process.

Planetary What-now?

Planetary Interaction is a very terrible, Civ-like mini-game in EvE that lets you exploit the resources of all those balls of dirt floating out there in your nice clean Void. The basic idea is:

  • Pretty much everything in the game is made by some other player.
  • All those things are created from other, smaller things.
  • Players have to make all those smaller things too.

A lot of the stuff you make in the game is created via EvE’s own particular brand of crafting (a subject I’ve already written about),  but a fairly sizeable chunk of stuff gets created via factories that players set up planetside all around New Eden and Anoikis to extract raw materials and turn them into useful things like Mechanical Parts, Enriched Uranium, Polytextiles, and Livestock.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll fiddle with this once, retrieve your crappy low-end product one time, sell it for pennies, wonder why you bothered, and never go back and mess with your colony ever again.

If you do know what you’re doing, a single character with about twelve days worth of skill training can produce over 20 million isk worth of materials per day, via a passive income source that (once you get it all set up) takes about five minutes of tweaking every few days.

Now, as it happens, the quality of a planet in terms of the amount of raw materials it produces is determined by the security level of the space it’s in. Wormhole space is the lowest of null-security space, therefore, planetary interaction colonies in wormhole space can be quite profitable, if you happen to have set up shop in a system with a good selection of planets. Even if you haven’t, it’s possible to use PI to create most of the materials you need to make fuel blocks for your tower, and maybe even sell off the excess.

Let me give you an example, using a common PI product: Coolant.

(Non-EvE players: I won’t be hurt at all if you stopped reading here.)

Coolant is (relatively) easy to set up, and it’s pretty easy to find planets on which you can make it, since it can be produced on virtually any gas planet, which are very common in EvE.

As an added bonus, Coolant is quite profitable if all you want to do is make it and sell it. The obvious reason (and the one everyone thinks of) is because it is one of the ingredients in the fuel blocks used by every kind of player-owned tower in the game.

However, it’s worth noting that Coolant also (eventually) finds its way into a few other products in the game, such as the Infrastructure Hub, Territorial Claim Unit, Sovereignty Blockade Unit, Biochemical Silo, Catalyst Silo, Coupling Array, General Storage, Hazardous Chemical Silo, Hybrid Polymer Silo, Advanced Large Ship Assembly Array, Capital Ship Maintenance Array, Advanced Medium Ship Assembly Array, Ship Maintenance Array, Advanced Small Ship Assembly Array, Capital Ship Assembly Array, Explosion Dampening Array, Component Assembly Array, Heat Dissipation Array, Photon Scattering Array, Drug Lab, Equipment Assembly Array, Intensive Refining Array, Large Ship Assembly Array, Medium Intensive Refining Array, Medium Ship Assembly Array, Refining Array, Rapid Equipment Assembly Array, Small Ship Assembly Array, Subsystem Assembly Array, X-Large Ship Assembly Array, Amarr Control Tower, Amarr Control Tower Medium, Amarr Control Tower Small, Caldari Control Tower, Caldari Control Tower Medium, Caldari Control Tower Small, Gallente Control Tower, Gallente Control Tower Medium, Gallente Control Tower Small, Minmatar Control Tower, Minmatar Control Tower Medium, Minmatar Control Tower Small, Corporate Hangar Array, Cynosural Generator Array, Cynosural System Jammer, Biochemical Reactor Array, Complex Reactor Array, Energy Neutralizing Battery, Jump Bridge, Large Blaster Battery, Large Railgun Battery, Large Artillery Battery, Large AutoCannon Battery, Experimental Laboratory, Mobile Laboratory…

*deep breath*

… Citadel Torpedo Battery, Large Pulse Laser Battery, Large Beam Laser Battery, Customs Office Gantry, Station Construction Parts, Station Hangar Array, Station Storage Bay, Station Laboratory, Station Factory, Station Repair Facility, Station Reprocessing Plant, Station Docking Bay, Station Market Network, Station Medical Center, Station Office Center, Station Mission Network, Advanced Mobile Laboratory, Capital Neutron Saturation Injector I, Capital Murky Shield Screen Transmitter I, ‘Limos’ Citadel Cruise Launcher I, Shock ‘Limos’ Citadel Torpedo Bay I, Quad 3500mm Gallium Cannon, 6x2500mm Heavy Gallium Repeating Cannon, Warp Disruption Battery, Warp Scrambling Battery, Stasis Webification Battery, Sensor Dampening Battery, Ion Field Projection Battery, Phase Inversion Battery, Spatial Destabilization Battery, and White Noise Generation Battery.

So, you know. Coolant.

It gets used in stuff.

It’s not one of the “20 million isk/day” products, but it’s pretty decent, and not too horrifying to set up.

So this is your basic Coolant PI set up on a Gas Planet, assuming you have the Command Center Upgrades skill trained to 4 (which you should absolutely do).

… and here’s how I put it together.

  1. Scan the planet for the two types of materials you need (Aqueous liquids and Ionic Solutions). Find a place equidistant between the two sources (they won’t be close together) where no one else is set up (right-click on the planet and ‘show other installations’), and plant your Command Center (CC) near there. Save Changes.
  2. Set up your spaceport (SP) pretty much smack-dab in the middle of where you want everything to happen.
    • Realize you forgot to upgrade your command center, so you can’t build a space port. Go back and upgrade your command center as far as it will go, THEN build the space port. Save Changes.
  3. There’s room immediately around your spaceport to arrange in six structures, so plant 4 basic processors (BP) and 2 advanced processors (AP).  Save Changes. I usually go BP, BP, AP, BP, BP, AP. Note: this picture is neither to scale nor arranged as I’ve just described, because I need more space for the ARTISTIC ARROWS.
  4. In two of your Basic Processors, load the program to turn Aqueous Liquids into Water. In the other two, load the program to turn Ionic Solutions into ElectrolytesSave Changes.
  5. In both of the Advanced Processors, load the program that will take Water and Electrolytes and make CoolantSave Changes.
  6. Set up two Extractors (Ext), each right up against that ring of processors. One extractor will be set to harvest  Aqueous liquids and the other, Ionic SolutionsSave Changes.
  7. Create links between all the structures and the Starport (SP). Save Changes.
  8. Start putting down extractor heads for the extractors.
    • Your “perfect” goal with a gas-planet coolant farm is to pull about 12000 units of stuff into the extractor, total, per hour, for a roughly one- to two-day cycle.
    • Your second (equally important) goal is to pull the same amount of stuff IN TOTAL as the other type of extractor, so you don’t end up with a lot of extra Ionic Solution or whatever.
    • Accept that you will end up with too much Ionic Solution anyway.
    • With CC Upgrades at 4, you can drop 7 extractor heads, I think. Probably you’ll need the odd one for Aqueous Liquids.
  9. Once you have your heads set, Run Program. You’ll have to set one of the extractors up, run the program, then work to get the other one to match the first’s numbers. Save Changes.
  10. Once the program is running, click on Products (not Routes) for each extractor and route the product back to the Starport. Save Changes.
  11. Back at the Starport, create Routes (not Products) for the incoming extracted stuff. Two routes for  Aqueous liquids: one to each Water BPs; two routes for Ionic Solutions to the two Electrolytes BPs. Save Changes.
  12. At the BPs, click on Products (not Routes) for each processor and route the product (Water or Electrolytes) back to the Starport.  Save Changes.
  13. Back at the Starport, create Routes (not Products) for the incoming  Water or Electrolytes and route them to each of the two Advanced Processors (AP).  Save Changes.
  14. At the APs, click on Products (not Routes) for each advanced processor and route the final product (Coolant) back to the Starport.  Save Changes.
  15. Exit. Remind yourself that once everything is set up, all you have to do to keep it running is massage the Extractor heads to keep your numbers even, and that you’re one-fifth closer to being done with PI for this character.

When your starport starts to look full of nothing but coolant or the m3 of coolant is getting close to your single-trip hauling capacity, send it up to the POCO, fly out, and pick it up.

The only difference between this and doing some other tier-2 product like, say, Mechanical parts on a Barren world, is that with mechanical parts, you aim to pull 18000 units of basic junk out of the ground each hour, and you use more processors (6 BPs and 3 APs). You can do this because most planets are smaller than Gas planets and require less infrastructure to run, so you can build more Processors on smaller worlds. It’s otherwise the same.

And that’s PI, which I’m spending an inordinate amount of time doing right now, so I can fuel the tower and (hopefully)  even enjoy some profit in the future.

Life in a Wormhole: Back on the Horse #eveonline

I’m going to go backwards a bit to tell a quick story that happened during the “2nd Siege” of our home system by the enemy cruisers. Why the air quotes? Well, it wasn’t really a siege, was it? I mean, they left.

Best way to siege a system, really: make them think you’re out there when you aren’t. Sun Tzu would be proud.

Worst thing about the whole weekend? Having a bunch of people shitting up our local intel channel with kugu links. Anyway.

So as mentioned, Berke lost his orca during the initial fracas. As per usual, the mighty ship went out in a blaze in the midst of hole-closing shenanigans, which is how such things tend to happen. The next day, he jumped out to known space in his pod to check the markets for a new ship because (a) they’re pretty useful and (b) Orcas are pretty much what Berke flies, so not having one is just silly.

So is gnashing your teeth and mourning the bloody thing, by the way. We’re certainly not casually throwing away ships out here, but the fact of the matter is, if you undock in anything, there’s a chance you’re going to lose it, and that chance increases exponentially if there are enemy ships anywhere. If I go into a fight, I have to expect I’ll lose that ship, and the Orca — despite not having any guns on — is the same. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s also useful enough to make it a necessary risk a lot of the time. If you’re going to be like this:

… then you need to harden the fuck up, Miles.

Anyway.

Berke had pretty much settled on a good contract deal a few jumps away when we get a pleasant surprise in the form of the Alliance replacing the Orca, complete with fittings identical to the recently lost ship – some kind of new ship-replacement-for-system-defense thing about which we will ask few questions and simply say “thanks.”

The only downside to this gift horse is that the ship is in Jita, which is (a) several dozen jumps away and (b) Jita. Yes, it’s the “main” market in the game, but it’s also a cesspool of lag and malice — it’s like flying into 4chan.

Still… free Orca. Le sigh.

The downside got considerably worse when Berke got his pod blown up one system away from his destination, resetting him to his naked clone (still back in the training system he started in) and requiring some new skill implant shopping. Thanks, random gate-camping dude in a destroyer.

Man I hate Jita.

Orca retrieved, Berke flies it back and slips it in through low-sec to return to the home system.

That’s not the amusing part.

That comes the next day, when all the Alliance guys are in the system, their fleet commanders have logged out, and we decide we want to close up the connection we have open to the class two system next door. The problem is, no one wants to put their battleships through the hole that much, because there’s been some traffic through the wormhole, it’s remaining strength is unknown, and they don’t want to get stranded.

So Berke gets his Orca.

And Berke crashes the hole, explaining as he does so that if he gets stranded, he’s got the tools he needs to get out, even from the BIG SCARY LOW-SEC EXIT in the neighboring system.

And of course the hole crashes with him on the wrong side.

Guys. You should have heard the dead silence on the comms. Seriously, you’d have thought the Orca had already exploded. It actually made me laugh, because Berke was like:

In the silence, Berke drops probes, cloaks up, and scans down the exit to lowsec, in a system which is directly adjacent to a CONCORD-controlled high-sec ‘island’, with six more lowsec jumps out to contiguous high-sec.

“Find a station, man, and once this thing is done, we’ll send a fleet to come pick you up.”

“Yeah, we will; no problem.”

Yeah…

Berke docs up in CORCORD’s station, pulls a fast frigate out of his own Orca’s ship hangar, and scouts the six-jump route out to high-sec. Quiet as a tomb. Right. Back to the station, back in the Orca, 10-second warps to each gate, and ten minutes later he’s back in high-sec. Twelve more jumps back home, another couple jumps through low-sec (with Ty checking the gates to see that they’re clear of camps), and back in the tower by bedtime.

The next day:

“Okay, we’ve got six guys who’ve volunteered to escort that Orca out to somewhere safe. What was that system again?”

I’m not saying you should fly reckless, or stupid.

But don’t fly scared. Don’t fly timid. It’s a fucking game.

Life in a Wormhole: Bad Time to Stop Sniffing Glue #eveonline

It’s a new day, and it’s clear that we’ve been penciled in for another round of “spot the invisible ship” with our old friends.

Super.

Everyone’s laying low right now, but unlike the last time when we were playing it cool in the hopes of misleading the enemy about our intentions or level of activity, this stretch of silence has nothing to do with tactics or, in fact, EvE. We’re just really busy.

The last tussle was a huge time investment, and pretty much every pilot we had was active and online. This time?

  • I’ve got about five deadlines to worry about, I’m Solo Dad for the whole week, and my kid has a terrifying-sounding but ultimately treatable case of the croup.
  • CB, Shan, and Gor are working really long hours.
  • Em is actually physically out of town, only able to log in via some sort of wifi-enabled GoToMyPC-funded seance.

The list goes on, and includes (I’m sure) a couple guys who just flat-out don’t want to go through the same marathon hole-crashing session again. It’s kind of tough. We mostly stay offline and shoot a lot of emails back and forth, trying to figure out what our best options are.

No one has any great ideas, aside from the obvious.

Basically, even if we wanted to fight, we don’t have enough people available to make it more than a blood sacrifice.

Our alliance has offered assistance, and we have a few discussions with the more vocal members about various possible options, all of which boil down to two main choices, each with their supporters and detractors. The pace of this discussion picks up a bit when I log in a day after the first fight and see that our visitors have shot up one of our Player-Owned Custom’s Offices (POCO), which has locked down in ‘reinforced mode’ and will come out of that mode in a day and a half, ready to be either defended or destroyed.

An artist's rendering of the presumed POCO-bashing events. Screenie by Pell Helix, embedded photographer.

Option 1: Sneak a bunch of pilots into the system in stealthy ships, while the enemy pilots are logged out. Set up some kind of believable but attack-worthy target for the enemy to bite on, then ambush their ambush. This is seen as too nuanced and ‘weak’ by some, and as the only really viable option by others. I’m in the second group, since I believe I understand the enemy pilots well enough to know they aren’t going to take any fight that looks bad, so a bait/ambush thing seems like the only way to actually get a fight that MIGHT result in expunging the pilots from the system.

Option 2: Fly in a fleet of battleships with heavy logistics support, form up on the damaged POCO and get ready for a big fight when the reinforcement timer ends. This is seen as the ‘strong’, ‘decisive’, show-of-force or ‘swinging dick’ option by some. Me? Well, if I were commanding a small fleet of billion-isk cloaky cruisers designed to mulch unsuspecting haulers and miners — I’m not going to be baited into a fight with a bunch of battleships. Obviously.

As plans go, I feel like I've heard better.

Still, I’m not going to look a gift fleet in the mouth because frankly without any help at all, our big move for the coming weekend is going to be “nothing”. When the group consensus settles on option two, I make room in our tower and open up a ship’s hangar to alliance pilots, so everyone has somewhere to bunk down.

I want to be clear: I may not think much of the plan, but the pilots who voluntarily leave their home systems, strap into ships, and fly over to join in on an operation versus an unknown force, all for guys they barely know? My opinion of them could not be higher.

In any case, it hardly matters. While I can’t be on all the time, I can be on at the right times, and between my watchlist (which still has all the enemy pilots on it from a few weeks ago) and some meta-intel, I’m able to confirm within 24 hours that six of the seven pilots involved in the fight two days ago are no longer in our system, and are in fact busy blowing up guys in some other wormhole. That last pilot is worrisome, as he’s the one guy who wasn’t in an expensive cruiser, but a relatively cheap stealth bomber, and as such he makes a great ‘alt’ to leave hidden in the wormhole for yet another fight down the road.

But that’s a concern for another day. The main enemy force is gone — probably left before the response fleet even showed up, actually — we repair the POCO, everyone flies back home with our thanks, and I start vacuuming up the potato chips and putting the couches back in their normal locations.

Life in a Wormhole: The Simplest Answer #eveonline

So there are a couple reasons why I posted the story of our last fight from the point of view of the guys on the other side of the gun barrels.

  1. I was really busy on Wednesday, and this let me post a fight without all the tedious… work.
  2. It’s important to remember that there are always at least two ways to look at a situation, often more than two, and that your perspective might not be the best one.

Mostly it’s that second part. Let’s see what we can learn from looking at things from that point of view:

  • That’s a group of guys who are obviously very familiar working with each other.
  • They know their jobs and responsibilities.
  • They make mistakes, they aren’t perfect, they don’t always or automatically get what they wanted out of a fight.
  • They get excited and shout and miss things.
  • Say what you will about camping systems in cloaked ships, or pulling “loginskis”, they’re really pretty damned good at what they do.
  • They were waiting for us, specifically.

Now, all those points are true, but I’m going to focus on that last one, because it’s relevant, here; if you read that last post, especially the part that led up to the fight, you should understand that our read on the situation was that we had discovered the presence of the enemy pilots, and that based on what we’d decided the situation was, the best thing to do would be to quickly close the connecting wormhole before we found ourselves right back where we had been.

Now, the whole time we were getting ready to do that, we were on voice comms, audibly shaking out heads and saying – over and over – “What are the fucking odds, man. What are the fucking ODDS?”

Yeah. What are the odds?

A small group of pilots with a really good track record of stealthily terrorizing wormhole systems with a pack of cloaked-up cruisers got into our system and started warming up for a pretty good weekend. We got them thinking that we were pretty non-active by staying quiet and cloaked up, then sprang into hole-crashing action as soon as they acted on that assumption and had a few guys leave the system. As a result, instead of explosions and mayhem, they found themselves in a scanning war, with the ousted pilots racing around New Eden trying to get back in, and eventually losing their inside man. We lost a couple ships, yes, but it would be fair to say that when the rubber hit the road, we ‘won’ that round.

Then, a few weeks later, we “open” our connection to class two wormhole space and see those same guys, but just a couple of them, blowing up ships next door.

There are 2500 wormhole systems. Of those, we will randomly connect to, at a minimum, one of the 499 other class two systems every day. Assuming that other class two system connects to high security space (it did), that’s 1090 different systems to which that other system might be connected.

So what are the odds that a small group of wormhole natives happen to be out in highsec known space for some reason, happen to be scanning, happen to find an entrance to class two wormhole space (500 of 2500 possible wormhole systems) which in turn just happens to be connected to our system via our outbound connection… and that all that happens on the same day?

I’d say those odds are pretty low.

What are the odds those guys wanted a rematch, waited a few days, then set about locating our system or following one of our pilots back home… or simply always still had one more ‘alt’ pilot in the system, ready to open the back door once we let our guard down a bit?

I’d say those odds are quite a bit higher; that we’ve moved from the realm of “vanishingly small” to “obviously, moron”.

We were in a rush. We were looking at things from only our limited point of view with only about a half hour’s worth of gathered intel. (We didn’t know that those enemy pilots had come into the class two from our system; the pilots that knew that were in our alliance, but opted to log out rather than communicate. Oops.)

Also, probably, we just didn’t WANT the more obvious answer to be true. No one wants the policeman to say “The call is coming from inside your house.”

It wasn’t until we had time to go over the fight, access our losses (not terrible, despite the loss of the orca — it could have been a hell of a lot worse), and evaluate our performance and ship selection (the Onyx was worse than useless – it was actually harmful; Em’s cloaky proteus turned out to be completely inappropriate for the fight that developed, and we were woefully short on proper sit-and-fight combat ships that would have evened the fight up a bit) that Em said:

“You know… they could have been in here, and just shooting the guys in the other system until we logged in.”

“That… yeah. Damn. That’d make more sense.”

“Yep.”

“It’s not very good news, though.”

“Nope.”


Are we making assumptions?

That’s the question to ask, when something like this happens. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time, maybe you need to move quickly.

But make sure, as you rush off, that you aren’t driving your 425 million isk bus right off a cliff. The simpler explanation is often the right one.

Lesson learned.

Life in a Wormhole: Return of the Tengu #eveonline

I’m on my way home for the day when I get a message from Em that our pilots have scanned down our connection to the neighboring class two wormhole system, and run into not one but two damned unlikely coincidences.

The first: the wormhole is occupied by one of the corporations in our own alliance, though no one we’ve interacted with before (one of the problems with an alliance this size and so spread out is that the vast majority of its members are folks we’ve never met or spoken to).

The second: they’ve apparently just had a couple of their ships blown up by the same pilots who had lurked in our own system a few weeks previous.

“Can we help them?”

“We’ve tried coordinating with them, but they’re not answering any of Tweed’s messages, and then they logged out.”

“Wow. That’s super useful. How many of those t3 pilots are there?”

“Looks like just two. The guys in the other hole were running a mining op. Tweed didn’t know who they were, so he scanned them down and snuck up on the asteroid belt, saw that they were blue to us, tried to talk to them through Alliance comms when he couldn’t raise any of them directly, and then two of our old buddies decloaked and blew them up.”

“So… bad guys around, and good guys logged off? We should –”

“We should close this connection asap, before they scan and figure out it’s here.”

“Yeah. On my way. Let’s get this done fast.”


“What have we got?”

“Shan’s in a hole-crashing Typhoon. I’ve got my Orca. Can Berke bring his too?”

“Of course,” I say. Berke is many thing’s but he’s never been squeamish about risking his big ship when it’s important — both of the Orca’s he’s lost have been while performing hole-closing maneuvers in dangerous situations, and even so his record of successful hole crashes while under fire has far more checks in the plus column. “I’ll bring the Cynabal for cover fire — might be the only thing I have besides the claw that can keep up with those over-propped lokis they fly.”

“I’ve got my Onyx,” adds Ichi, “and Kat’s in the Falcon.”

I nod, frowning a little. The ecm-fit Falcon force recon cruiser is a good choice for these kinds of ops — although fragile, I can sit over 70 klicks from the wormhole and jam the targeting on enemy ships, allowing the lumbering hulks to escape. The onyx makes less sense, since its main claim to fame is the ability to generate a large warp disruption bubble around itself, which many cloak-fit strategic cruisers are immune to. Still, it’s not my ship, and I’m honestly not sure what else he could fly that would be any better — he’s more often in a mining ship or a sleeper-shooting drake than a PvP ship.

“Okay,” says Em, “let’s do this.”

Berke lands on the wormhole next to Shan’s Typhoon while I circle the wormhole in the Cynabal cruiser, and the two waste no time jumping through to join Em on the far side of the wormhole, where’s she’s been waiting for several minutes.

“Ready to jump back?” Em asks.

“Sure.”

All three of the big ships slip through the wormhole and reappear in the home system.

That’s when all hell breaks loose.


[The following transmission was taken from the combat logs of the attacking pilots. Additional notes were added by one of the participating pilots, who sent the logs over in the first place. EvE is weird, sometimes.]

“You’re decloaked,” Brehm said, as we sat on the static C2, watching the Typhoon and Cynabal. There was a cloaked Onyx hiding nearby, and we knew the Orcas were about to decloak as well, but we’re waiting until their guard is down, right after the hole collapses.

“No I’m not,” I began to say, searching my overview for anything within range to decloak me. I looked down at my Cloak to see the green pulse of activation was absent.

Well, shit.

“Here we go!” I yelled on Comms. “Cynabal is primary, log in guys here we go; log in and warp to me!” I called, adrenaline beginning to pump.

The pilots already cloaked on the wormhole decloaked, locking the Cynabal and opening fire.

“Need a scram on the Cyna, confirm point!” I commanded.

“Got a point!” yelled Shocks, burning his Loki toward the Cynabal.

Yellow boxes on the HUD turned red as the Cynabal opened fire on me. The Onyx and both Orcas decloaked, and my warp drive became unavailable as the heavy interdictor’s warp disruption field coalesced around us.

“One of the Orca’s just jumped back here!” called Winter from his location on the far side of the static. “Orca cloaked.”

The Cynabal’s shields start dropping under the combined fire of half a dozen Tier 3 Cruisers, but it was already pulling away from us. “Cyna’s dual-propped.” I called as my battleship-rated afterburner flared to life and I took chase. “Winter, get back over here.”

My point lock on the Cynabal fell, as it first managed to use its afterburners to outrun the warp scrambler my fleetmate had on it, then switched to a microwarpdrive, putting a hundred kilometers between us in seconds.

The second Orca — the one that hadn’t been sitting on the far side of the wormhole for awhile and which was obviously still polarized by passing through the anomaly twice in a few seconds — was aligning to warp away from the wormhole, but was trapped by his own ally’s warp disruption bubble.

Then the Onyx’s bubble vanished.

“Orca is primary. Confirm point on the Orca! Need a 3-point! CAN ANYONE CONFIRM A THREE POINT?” I yelled on comms.

“Confirmed,” Brehm said, cool and collected as he always is during a fight.

“Confirmed scram on the Orca!” yelled Winter at almost the exact same instant, burning clear of the wormhole he’d just jumped through.

“Falcon on grid,” announced Prot, piloting his Jihad alt “Rabid”, a bare-bones Bomber pilot with a few kills already under his belt.

“Bump the Orca! Orca is primary!” I ordered.

“Onyx is getting away!” shouted someone, their pilot ID lost in the confusion.

“Get a point on that Onyx, chase him; he’s trying to make a break for it!” I yelled.

“I’m jammed, lost my point,” said Winter, his Loki ramming into the Orca’s shields to push the big ship out of alignment — force works when technology fails.

“Got the Onyx!” shouted Shocks, chasing the heavy interdictor as it tried to clear the main body of the fight.

I chased after the Onyx while keeping guns on the Orca, whittling it into structure with my comrades, overheated my warp disruptor and caught him; I wasn’t going to let any other ships get away from us.

“Falcon has me jammed,” call Shocks as the Orca exploded, its wreck adorning the wormhole in a shower of light, the pod was gone in the blink of an eye.

We then turned our full attention to the Onyx and the Falcon.

“Bump the Onyx guys, don’t let it get away. Rabid, you’re the fastest align; warp out and come back in on top of that Falcon, now!” I said as I, also jammed, rammed my Loki into the limping Onyx. The falcon was delaying us, but he couldn’t jam all our ships; a mixture of Stasis Webifiers and Energy Neutralizers played over the ship’s hull, dragging it to a near halt and draining the capacitor dry.

“I’m gonna get that Falcon,” Brehm called, his Tengu already turning away from the doomed Onyx, his heavy afterburner overheated, his warp disruptor overheated and at the ready.

We continued firing on the Onyx, its strong tank holding out for over a minute against the onslaught of our fleet, even drained of power.

“Falcon’s gone. Warped out,” Brehm called as the Onyx’s one remaining fleet mate on the field made a hasty exit.

We continued pounding on the Onyx as Rabid reported in. “I’ve got three of them inside the shieds at their towers.”

I watched the Onyx explode from meters away as my Loki rammed through the wreckage, setting the wormhole alight a second time. “Nice work.”

“Wasn’t there another ship around here somewhere?” Winter asked. “Besides that second Orca?”

“Oh shit, we forgot about the Typhoon!”


So, lessons learned:

  • If you’re worried they’re going to find the wormhole that leads to your system, they’ve already found it.
  • Don’t use a heavy interdictor to cover your wormhole crashing operation. This kills the Orca.
  • Cynabals are fast. They can’t brawl it out with six tech 3s, but holy hell are they good at getting away when things go pear-shaped.
  • Two warp core stabilizers don’t help when your attacker has an expensive faction warp scrambler with extra disruption strength.
  • Patience pays off. Rushing gets you killed.

And that’s about it for now. Thanks to Pell for sending over the attacker’s side of the fight — it’s interesting to see things from the side you weren’t on.

Life in a Wormhole: Time and Relative Dimension In Space #eveonline

Time for a bit more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to help get caught up to current events.

Trippy.

The biggest challenge with wormholes is staying engaged. If you’re engaged and doing stuff, then wormhole living is the best thing in any MMO I’ve ever played. If, however, you’re in the mood for a more passive gaming experience, where you just sit back and let some random NPC tell you to go kill ten rats, then wormholes can be kind of a drag, simply because there are no such NPCs out in wormhole space, and you’re left at the mercy of your fellow wormhole pilots (friendly or not) to provide some entertainment. If you’re not in the mood to scan the home system, you’d better hope someone else is. If you want to shoot at someone but can’t be arsed to go find them, odds are you won’t have much to do tonight.

The problem we’re running into in the current hole is that the “level” of the hole (a class two, on a difficulty scale from one to six), isn’t particularly challenging in and of itself. I can easily remember times when the sleepers filled me with a healthy amount of respect, but between better training and more knowledge of the content, those days are fairly well past. In short, simply shooting sleepers in a class two isn’t the draw it might have once been. We’re looking for either bigger or more frequent challenges, and that’s what most of the activity this week amounts to:

Perhaps in Lowsec?
While running out to Amarr for some parts, I decide to detour for a random solo roam through the low-sec systems our hole is connected to, looking for trouble. Trouble, however, seems to have taken the night off, and I return to the hole with no kills or losses to report.

Perhaps a Merger?
A couple days later, Em and I sit down for a long talk with one of our alliance mates who lives in a wormhole similar to ours, except that instead of a static connection to low-sec and more class two wormhole space, his system connects to high-sec and class Four wormhole space. The set-up sounds like a lot of fun. Runs to known space are even easier, sure, but one of the fun draws is the fact that, if you open up the wormhole to highsec all the time, the signature tends to lure in curious exploration pilots — the results can be fun and often hilarious. Also, having access to higher-level wormholes with more challenging content and (potentially) more skilled pilots to fight sounds fun as well.

It’s a good talk, and leaves Em and I discussing where we’d like to see our two corps in the near and distant future.

Perhaps a Roam with RvB?
Sometimes “Ganked” null-sec roams with Red versus Blue can be a lot of fun. Other times, it’s more like this one, which amounts to ten minutes of fun packed into many hours of aimless wandering and miscommunication. Honestly? I think everyone involved is too sober.

Perhaps on Sisi?
I join up with Em, CB, and Shan to try out various types of ships on the test server and to practice catching ships on wormholes and gates (and escaping from people trying to catch you). It’s good fun, although the overview when I’m logged in is basically non-functional and very nearly makes the game unplayable.

Still, we have a good time and get in an entertaining scuffle with a pilot from Eclipse., ending in a long conversation about ship fittings and overheating tactics that shows me a lot of the cool things you can do with underrated ships. Pity about the overview, though — damned if that little excel-like grid isn’t basically the heart and soul of everything that happens in space in EvE. In a lot of ways, the game is just the old text-based Battletech MUSE that I used to play in college, with cool graphics added — all the real work still happens by interacting with the text grid.

Perhaps a re-match with the Same T3 cloaky cruisers that we pushed out of the home system a few weeks ago?
Umm… no, that doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

Oh. We don’t get a choice? Well, damn…

More on that tomorrow, in its own post.

Life in a Wormhole: Let’s do the Time Warp #eveonline

Holy moly, I’m behind. Under normal circumstances, things posted here are time-delayed several weeks to a month, but now? Looking at my notes, I’m almost two and a half months behind. Let’s see if I can rectify that, somewhat.

When we last left our heroes, we’d just managed to push, trick, trip, or luck our way into removing some enemy tech3 cruisers from the home system. Our assumption is they’ll be back, eventually, but for now we call things good. Let’s hit the highlights of what went on after that.

Thrashed
CB and Ty made use of a convenient high-sec exit to sell some loot and pick up some of the shined-up versions of the once old-and-clunky assault frigate. No idea what we’ll use them for in a wormhole (aside from running anomalies in Class 1 wormholes), but they sure are pretty. While I’m out puttering around, CB reports a Drake running sleeper sites in the class two wormhole we’ve been using as an exit route, but my return sends this denizen of highsec scurrying back to the light.

Or wait, maybe he didn’t run away because of me: maybe he ran away because the local inhabitants of the system woke up and jumped into their own sleeper-running ships. Why yes, that seems to be what’s happening; we spot a Typhoon-class battleship (a bit of an odd choice for class 2 sites, but whatever) and a Thrasher destroyer (probably the salvager). CB skitters back home to get a hurricane, and I try to set up a proper mugging of the Typhoon, but sadly my poor cloaky proteus is far too slow to catch up to the ‘phoon as it jets around the site, at least not without decloaking, and I rather doubt the pilot will stick around if I show myself prematurely.

No worries: We’ll just jump the Thrasher when it shows up to loot the wrecks, instead. This proves to be much easier and fairly profitable to boot (also, amusing, since I’m even able to catch and pop the pilot’s escape pod, thanks to it getting hung up on some structures).

Let’s Not and Say We Did
The weekend’s scanning leads us through a class one wormhole and into another class two, unfortunately inhabited by members of the same alliance who originally started the whole problem with the group of pilots whom we just kicked out of our hole. Do we want to tussle with these guys again, and possibly end up with those same pilots back in our system? No, we do not. Luckily, the hard-to-close class 1 connection dies of old age before our unwelcome neighbors realize we’re there.

Moon Them as we Drive By
We had a very convenient exit about a week later that let CB and me move some ships out of the wormhole and over to a corporate office we’ve set up as a staging area for nullsec PvP. Which ships? All kinds, but mostly those that are better suited for Null-sec pvp (where small-group conflicts tend to happen at the 10 to 40 kilometer range) than wormhole PvP (where fights usually happen within 5 km or less). We have way, way, WAY too many ships in the tower anyway, so I’m happy to haul out a couple Talos battlecruisers, some of our less-used interceptors, and a bevy of “cheap roam fitting” tech1 cruisers that we’ve played with in the past.

Now all we have to do is find time to fly them and get them blown up.

Our offloading is marginally (VERY marginally) inconvenienced by some maneuvering with members of Moon Warriors who, while better known as a nullsec alliance active in Syndicate, also seem to have members in the wormhole system we’re using as an exit. We circle the lot of them for a while, but can’t seem to get them to engage. Ahh well.

Class Five is a Gas
We got a weird, rare connection to a Class Five wormhole, out of which I extract more than a little of the rich, ladar-emitting fullerene gasses that the kids are all huffing these days. Tweed does better scanning than I do, however, and finds another very strange wormhole connection — one straight from the c5 out to conveniently located highsec. I take the opportunity to pick up a Scimitar logistics ship and a Rapier force recon, then CB and I trudge back out to highsec to do prep work for a battleship-sized roam of nullsec that’s been arranged with another alliance. We have NOT had good experiences roaming with this other alliance in the past, but I talk CB into at least doing the prep work. He puts together a fairly hellish blaster-toting Dominix, while I set up a nasty, short-range Typhoon. We may be as near-sighted as a rhino, but between the two of us we’re as dangerous as angry hippos. Rawr.

The original Hunger Games.

The Host has Not Yet Joined this Call…
Unsurprisingly, the guy who’s supposed to be running the battleship roam is late to his own party. He logs in five minutes before we’re supposed to actually start and two hours late for the actual mustering time and announces that he’s still out in wormhole space.

At which point about half of the people on the comms reply that they are all still out in wormhole space as well. Why did we even bother prepping a whole day early?

Oh yeah, because we actually respect other people’s fucking time.

So rather than wait, we say screw this, and CB and I hop in Rifters and go roaming around on in the Syndicate region for awhile. Two HOURS later, we’re on our way back to home base and actually fly through the battleship fleet we’d decided not to wait for. They have made it three whole jumps into nullsec, and are hung up on a gate, apparently too scared to jump through the gate and into the enemy force half their size waiting on the other side. We slip past both groups and finish up with no kills but — it must be said — a lot less stress than we’d have otherwise had. Call it a win. (Except for yet another set of ships we’ve built and then never used for a half-assed, poorly-organized roam. Seriously, guys: take a couple classes from Agony Unleashed and see how it’s done.)

Once that’s done, we unload yet more unlikely-to-see-use ships from the wormhole, focusing on the redundant or highly specialized.

The trick with ship selection in wormholes is to avoid too much specialization in a ship. Yes, all ships have primary roles — interceptors should be interceptors — that’s fine, but a cruiser that isn’t any use except to lure in a fast frigate and kill it, while cool and fun, is of limited to no use in a wormhole. Ships you bring out to a wormhole should be capable vs. any opponent (within reason) — with something useful to do no matter the enemy; no more of these “oh, if it’s not a frigate, there’s no point in flying it” ships.

In short, there’s a reason battlecruisers are so common in wormholes.

Mammoth Undertaking
I get an email from CB sayin that a Mammoth-class hauler has been lost and that he and Ichi were both involved. What?

Oh! They killed a Mammoth. That’s much better.

Apparently, some inhabitants in a class two wormhole opened a connection to us, left the connection open, and decided to… do some mining. They were wrapping up operations when Tweed found them, but had left multiple time-stamped canisters in the field to retrieve, which gave our guys a great guideline as to where to be and how soon they needed to get there. (Dear miners: renaming your cans of ore so that they tell everyone nearby when you’ll be back? Always do this. Thanks.)

Anyway, while Tweed sussed out the location, Ichi and CB got into stealth bombers and then proceeded to use them on the hauler to great effect.

I’m unfortunately not as lucky.

I log in a few hours after the highjinx; our system is quiet and Tweed is still watching our neighbors. No sooner do I arrive than Tweed announces a sudden flurry of activity and one of the pilots switching into a Sigil hauler and warping off to one of the planets in system.

Em and I are both online, but we weren’t exactly prepared to run an ambush because we figured the neighbors would have more sense than to do more hauling with a dangerous connection still up — silly us. We both scramble into stealth bombers while Tweed warps around trying to tackle the hauler with his Anathema covert ops frigate. He gets close, but the pilot only stops at a few planets and returns to his tower. Boo.

But wait! The pilot reships into an Imicus scanning frigate and flies slowly outside the tower’s forcefield to fiddle with a storage canister cunningly labeled with the pilot’s name. (Dear pilots: always do this too.) Once he arrives, he drops scanning probes and proceeds to scan while floating, fully visible, with no protection except the tower’s guns, which take forever to lock anything as small as a bomber.

Clearly, we need to do something.

Em and I line up bombing runs, which goes off perfectly except for one TINY detail: since we were cloaked up, we didn’t realize that we were flying different types of bombers and dropping different types of bombs, so rather than killing the Imicus with two massive explosions, we only get one massive explosion (Em’s) which strips the Imicus’s shields and armor… and destroys my bomb before it detonates. Darn it. This is what we get for hurrying.

Somewhat Back to Normal
Cabbage is in the mood to run some sleeper sites, and we have a good system next door to do so. Cab and I shoot the enemy sentient ship thingies while CB runs salvager operations in the HMS Generous Donation. Cab’s time is limited, so we focus on higher profit and/or less annoying sites for a little over an hour, netting 275 million isk, split 3 ways. Not too shabby. CB and Cab log, I run the loot out to Rens and take the time to set up a non-wormhole-dwelling corpmate with one of our spare Myrmidon battlecruisers to use for running missions while he trains a few more skills to come join us.

Time Travel Complete. Doctor Whooves is pleased.

But Wait, There’s More…

Not today, though. We’re a bit caught up, but I’d say we’ve still got a month or more to go. Tune in tomorrow.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.