Monday, April 30, 2012

My apologies in advance...

...I'm about to get busier than usual, which means this fan blog might suffer with more intermittent posts, but only temporarily!  I'm not sick or anything, I'm seriously going to be busier.  It's because of the fan epilog I'm about to REALLY hunker down to write and give my 100-percent to.  As a "Mass Effect" fan, it's a story that means a lot to me to get right, and I want to get it right for my fellow fans.

You've already seen a hint of what I have in store for this story with my work, "Forever Starts Now".  In broad strokes, it involves my 'headcanon' of what occurs after FemShep destroys the Reapers, and how she will launch into a desperate search for the one she loves, Liara T'Soni, and the rest of her lost crew.  This fic won't be going by half, either...the trilogy was a massive story, and to do it right will need an equally involved conclusion, another thing that for whatever reason BioWare couldn't give to us.

You'll see my fic soon at, deviantART...and here, so stay tuned! :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Galaxy's Mightiest Heroes!

At the start of the 1980's, in part because of legendary actor John Wayne's recent passing, a trend developed for filmmakers to find someone who could fill his larger-than-life boots on the silver screen. Those heirs to The Duke had names like Stallone, Norris, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. All became famous in their own right for their own brand of heroics, and the need to make them just as larger-than-life as Wayne put them in the roles of lone heroes who often had to deal with dozens, if not hundreds of bad guys before they finally won the day. It was overcompensation, especially in terms of sheer firepower, because honestly: how can any guy, no matter how much of a man they were, compete with John Wayne? Those filmmakers of the 80's forgot one important thing, though...more often than not, even The Duke didn't right wrongs all by himself. By the middle of the decade, though, the 'Buddy Movie' emerged for action-adventure fans, first with Billy Crystal and the late Gregory Hines as Chicago supercop partners in "Running Scared", and not long after that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover blasted bad guys with a grin in the first of the "Lethal Weapon" films.

There's strength in numbers. We learned that as kids either reading (or watching!) "The Wizard of Oz", and seeing four very different characters join together to travel along the Yellow Brick Road and find what each of them desperately needed. Dorothy needed a way home, the Scarecrow wanted a brain, the Tin Man yearned for a heart, and the cowardly Lion hoped to find courage. The irony of the story as it unfolded, of course, was that this group already had all of those things they wanted; they simply needed to look within themselves. Even Dorothy was told -- belatedly, and only AFTER she helped bring an end to the Wicked Witch of the West, which I thought was pretty cold! -- that her Ruby Slippers were her means to get back home.

In the realm of geekdom, not too far removed from Oz, science fiction has also shown that for every adventure where it comes down to a lone hero saving the day, like Superman, there are also stories when a group of like-minded souls can make anything possible for the greater good. In comics, there have been super-teams like the Fantastic Four, the All-Star Squadron, the Justice League of America...and then there were the mighty Avengers, Marvel Comics' collection of heroes (and not to be confused with a classic TV series featuring British secret agents John Steed and Emma Peel). You might have heard of the upcoming movie bringing the Avengers to life directed by Joss Whedon. If you haven't, congratulations! You live under a rock.

The comic "The Avengers" was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963...the heroes known as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp banded together and swore they would fight the villains no single hero can defeat. In the fourth issue Captain America, super-soldier of WWII, was found and revived and made an honorary founding member of the team. Since that time, the roster of the Avengers has changed as often as the seasons, but the approach the writers and artists since has been the same following Lee and Kirby's lead: that there be as much realism and drama between the group's characters as there is conflict between the group and the many, many villains they've faced. Each Avenger has been as different from the other as night and day, each defined as much by their flaws as their virtues. Some team members were once criminals and/or super-villains themselves, and others have suffered everything from alcoholism to nervous breakdowns. (And yes, death. But that's only temporary in comics, as every fan knows!) Perhaps the most infamous subplot to shake up the team was when Hank "Ant-Man or Giant-Man or Yellowjacket or whatever!" Pym physically abused his wife, Janet "The Wasp" Van Dyne, and they divorced as a result.

Ultimately, though, in spite of their flaws and any possible skeletons, what makes the Avengers great has always been their diversity and what each unique hero brings to the team's table. They've repeatedly complemented each other in battle, and with the leadership of heroes like Captain America or Iron Man, they're capable of defeating even the most seemingly unstoppable foes. Yes, there is strength in numbers...and that's a lesson also to be learned in "Mass Effect".

Of course, the crew of the Normandy far more closely relate to the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise from "Star Trek", or the heroes brought together by the Force to fight the Galactic Empire in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, or Joss Whedon's comparatively more humble crew of the Serenity in the short-lived "Firefly". Commander Shepard, whatever he/she looks like, has been as bold and heroic as Captain Kirk, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker or Captain Reynolds, leading a truly diverse team of heroes brought together by the same interest: to preserve all they hold dear from the threat of the Reapers, which is more terrifying than any Empire because they don't threaten a despotic rule, they threaten to take away all life itself. In spite of being very different from Shepard, in spite of being from a world once enemy to Earth like Garrus Vakarian...or a professional mercenary like Zaeed Massani or Urdnot Wrex, or a master thief like Kasumi Goto...or having to wear sealed armor to avoid the slightest infection like Tali'Zorah vas Normandy...or forced to live with a debilitating handicap, like Joker...even those who Shepard called enemies, like Legion and Miranda Lawson, have become part of his/her crew and made it even stronger because of what made them each unique.

Could Shepard have succeeded alone, as he/she was forced to do in the incompetent ending to "Mass Effect 3", all of his/her decisions before that not meaning a damn? No. However, what makes Shepard the lynchpin and hero of the series is that he/she inspires others as a leader to follow her example, like Captain Kirk or Captain America, not because she works alone. That's the reason Shepard rises above the rest, and yeah, he/she would be the first to say (if Paragon!) that he/she got as far as they did because of their crew.

That's why the Avengers may be Earth's mightiest heroes, but Shepard and the crew of the Normandy are the galaxy's mightiest.

Thinking about it, after having to deal with the Reapers, Shepard would call fighting a super-villain like Doctor Doom a walk in the park! ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cosplay Effect #3: Jack

It's like Subject Zero walked out of the game, didn't she?  Jia Jem is spectacular as the Psychotic Biotic herself, Jack! :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Forever Starts Now"

This is a piece I submitted to deviantART yesterday, and I wanted to bring it to my fellow fans here.  If only BioWare had just put at least a little extra energy into what they did give us for some closure, especially with Shepard's love interest.  Since I'm hugely into FemShep, this is a little something I created that relates to a fiction I'm writing (as fast as I can!) based on my 'headcanon' for FemShep and Liara.  How does it relate?  Hey, I can only spoil so much... ;3

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quotable Quotes: Too Much Info, The Asari Edition!


"ME" fans will remember meeting a certain Matriarch tending bar on Illium in the second turns out she was watching Liara when she was hunting the Shadow Broker, and if you're careful enough, you'll run into her again behind the counter of the Presidium Commons' Apollo's Cafe in #3.  And she's still watching Liara!  Why?  Her name is Aethyta, and she's Liara's long-lost 'dad'!  The only surprise bigger than that is Liara knows her 'dad' is watching her!  As Shepard, you can nudge her into talking to Aethyta for the first time...and Liara (and we) learn more than we thought we would!  You'll catch them talking if you hover around enough... :)

Aethyta:  "Come on, you can't blame the Matriarchs for keeping an eye on you."
Liara:  "I am not my mother."
Aethyta:  "You did threaten to flay someone alive with your mind."
Liara:  "I had to make them take me seriously. I wasn't going to actually do it. bugged my office on Illium."
Aethyta:  "That'd be the logical conclusion, yeah."

Aethyta:  "The Matriarchs aren't gonna do anything to you, especially in the middle of this damn war."
Liara:  "My reports don't show much activity from the Asari military against the Reapers."
Aethyta:  "Come on, you know how the Asari work. Infiltration and sabotage."
Liara:  "But against Reaper forces, that's..."
Aethyta:  "I know. About as useful as tits on a Hanar. Good thing we've got the Turians and the Krogan to do the heavy lifting. Our people just aren't built for the front ranks."

Aethyta:  "So yeah, my dad was a Krogan."
Liara:  "Yes, I'm aware of that."
Aethyta:  "So that makes you a quarter Krogan."
Liara:  "That's...not how it works!"
Aethyta:  "I'm a thousand years old. I've had kids with Hanar. Don't tell me how Asari reproduction works."
Liara:  "Wait...I have a half-sister who's part Hanar?"
Aethyta:  "I thought that wasn't how it worked."

Aethyta:  "All I'm saying is that if you feel the urge to head-butt something, it's genetic."
Liara:  "I have never wanted to head-butt anything."
Aethyta:  "Really? Not even a little bit? Come on."
Liara:  "I do not head-butt people!"
Aethyta:  "All right, fine, don't go all Blood Rage on me."
Liara:  "Or what? You'll tell the other Matriarchs to order a hit?"
Aethyta:  "Hey. That's not going to happen."

Aethyta:  "Nezzy and I were together for more than a century."
Liara:  "You loved her?"
Aethyta:  "Course I loved her. She was so smart. Always thinking. Nice, too. Hell of a lot nicer than I am. And damn, that rack. I mean, even before she hit the Matriarch stage..."
Liara:  "You don't need to tell me everything."

Aethyta:  "Nezzy was the only one who ever listened to me when I said the Asari were stuck in the past. Only difference was, I wanted us to stand on our own. She wanted alliances with the other species."
Liara:  "Is that why..."
Aethyta:  "Why it ended? Nah. Well, maybe. I don't know. Mostly it ended because she wanted to solve things the smart way. I wanted to fight."
Liara:  "Those aren't mutually exclusive."
Aethyta:  "Yeah, I hear you've racked up quite a body count. But then, you are a quarter Krogan."
Liara:  "Now you're doing it on purpose."

Aethyta:  "It was pretty clear she was leaving. Can't be the wise counselor when you're married."
Liara:  "Why not?"
Aethyta:  "Sex appeal. Most species only pay attention if they want to have sex with you. So you have to be available, mysterious..."
Liara:  "What? That's not true! Shepard listens to me!"
Aethyta:  "And how many times have you thrown her on the bed and peeled her out of her uniform?"
Liara:  "Do you have to make it sound so...tawdry?"
Aethyta:  "If it's all civilized, you're not doing it right."

Aethyta:  "I made her promise to let you go your own way, though. No matter what she wanted."
Liara:  "Really?"
Aethyta:  "I knew you'd be special, kid. Any daughter of hers. I told her, 'You're treating her like a baby bird, Nezzy, but she's gonna raise one hell of a storm with those little wings.'"
Liara:  "Little Wing?"
Aethyta:  "You okay?"
Liara:  "Yes. Thanks."

Aethyta:  "It's better to remember her like this than as whatever she turned into with that Saren bastard."
Liara:  "It wasn't her fault. She was trying to stop Saren, guide him as a force of good. But she was Indoctrinated."
Aethyta:  "Look, I've heard stories about the Reapers messing with your head..."
Liara:  "They're more than stories. I've seen it. Every Cerberus solider is a Reaper slave. She fought it with every fiber of her being. She even broke free and helped Shepard on Noveria before she died. I was there. She said I'd made her proud."
Aethyta:  "All this time, I'd blamed Nezzy for it. Thousand years old, and I still don't know crap. Thanks for telling me."

Aethyta:  "Just take care of yourself out there, okay, kid?"
Liara:  "I will...Dad."
Aethyta:  "Hey, I've called a few friends. Commandos. Eclipse girls who owe me some favors. They're all yours. Just tell 'em where to go."
Liara:  "You're giving me...Asari Commandos?"
Aethyta:  "Well, you're too old for me to buy you a damn pony..."
Liara:  "You're the best father a girl could ask for."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Garrus is Tougher Than You:

I will get to this guy's capsule bio and explain ALL of why he's awesome someday, don't worry!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Heartfelt Hugs...

Sometimes I'll take a moment to focus on "Mass Effect" art from my fellow fans. This piece from jameson9101322 deserves more than just focus. If this doesn't tug at your heartstrings, you don't have a heart. Just saying.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Mass Effect's" Top Five Villains!

*Yes, you guessed it: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE in this post if you haven't played the games!*

They're as evil as anything you can imagine. They've given Shepard and his/her crew their fair share of nightmare situations. They're the top five villains of the "Mass Effect" trilogy! For the purposes of this list, we'll ignore the small fry and get to those whose evil intentions have affected the entire galaxy, and even threatened to change it for the worse. This focus on individual villains will also leave out the Reapers, even Sovereign and Harbinger. The reason for that is the Reapers might as well be a metaphor for Death itself in the mythos of "Mass Effect", virtual forces of nature in their power and ferocity, but as important as they are we still don't learn enough about them.

1) The Catalyst

A lot of fans hate the Catalyst for reasons that go FAR beyond its villain status, but I don't feel like talking about gaping plot holes or 'red-green-blue' right now. -_- As far as bad guys go, though, the A.I. that calls itself the Catalyst is the most monstrous in the history of the "Mass Effect" universe, because it came up with the idea of the cycle of extinction and creating the Reapers to make it happen. According to its twisted logic the created (artificial life) are fated to destroy their creators (organic life), which would result in the galactic extinction of all organic life. In order to keep that from happening -- stick with me here -- it created the cycle in which only the most advanced civilizations will be culled by the Reapers, and the least advanced allowed to evolve until the NEXT cycle. It's circular logic at its very worst, basically creating a timetable for genocide instead of letting it happen naturally. But that presupposes, of course, that the Catalyst is right and it's the natural state of things that the created will destroy their creators! And as we saw in the third chapter, the war between the Quarians and Geth finally ended with peace between the two! So the Catalyst isn't just crazy, it's flat-out WRONG. But Shepard still talks to the damn thing at the end and listens to it offer its 'red-green-blue' choices...agh, *I don't want to talk about that!* x_x

2) Saren Arterius

The first true villian with a face the player finds themselves fighting in the original "Mass Effect"...and if what Liara T'Soni theorized was true, echoing an old Human saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, easily the most tragic. It's hard to feel any sympathy for this Turian-born Spectre knowing his history before encountering Sovereign, though. Saren was a bigot, like many in the galaxy feeling that Humanity was advancing too fast and had no place among the established Council races. He also manipulated events during a failed operation so that David Anderson, who later became Commander Shepard's mentor, would fail as the first Human Spectre. Then at some point he encountered Sovereign, which was slowly preparing to bring its fellow Reapers into the galaxy from the dark space outside of it. Saren himself claimed he worked in partnership with the Reaper, bringing the Geth Heretics under its control, to pave the way for a supposedly bloodless conquest of the galaxy. But the Turian villain was also paranoid of his 'partner', fearing (rightly) that the Indoctrination the Reaper used to take control of Matriarch Benezia and others would one day affect him. But even if he wasn't Indoctrinated, he shot his friend Nihilus in the back, which makes him an all-around son of a bitch! Ultimately, the Reaper did Indoctrinate Saren, and even went further to transform the former Spectre into an organic-artificial hybrid...those depressed by the 'red-green-blue' options of "ME3" will remember uncomfortably that Saren claimed he was a preview of the future, in which all life would be thusly transformed. (That could be an echo of 'synthesis', or simply that anyone not processed would be transformed into Husks, but it's way too much to be a coincidence!) If you play a Paragon Shepard, though, you can talk some sense into Saren and make him take a good look at himself...and he'll commit suicide, a belated attempt to make all he did wrong right. Sovereign would take control of his body shortly afterward, however, transforming it into a hellish puppet that makes a last-ditch bid to kill Shepard. Fortunately, no dice!

3) The Illusive Man

Diplomacy. As far as priorities go, that's dead last on on the Illusive Man's list, the man who created the Human-centric terrorist organization Cerberus from an Alliance black-ops military force that fell far, far off the radar. We first get glimpses of an evil born from that old line 'the ends justify the means', as Cerberus goes to any lengths to keep its operations and existence secret. From killing military soldiers, even admirals, to experimenting on Rachni and Creepers for their own use, the terrorists are a shadowy yet sublime threat in the first "Mass Effect". It isn't until the second game Cerberus is given a face: its leader, the Illusive Man, is as concerned about the Reapers as Shepard, and he's willing to go to any length and use any tactic to ensure the Reapers are one day defeated. He isn't dumb enough to discount Shepard's skill and ability, and that he/she might be the one hope anyone in the galaxy has. That hope is almost snuffed out when the Collectors attack the Normandy and kill Shepard. Cerberus gets ahold of his/her body, however, and after two years under the ministrations of Cerberus operative Miranda Lawson, the hero is brought back to life. Shepard forms a cautious alliance of convenience with the Illusive Man and Cerberus to find out if the Collectors work for the Reapers, and why they have recently targeted Human colonies. The Illusive Man is one cool customer, however, the kind of guy who would make those who believe in 'acceptable losses' cringe! More than once he manipulates events and even puts Shepard and the crew of the new Normandy in harm's way to get the information they need. After the Collector Base is found in the deadly Galactic Core, Shepard can choose to destroy or salvage the base for Cerberus. Months later, whatever Shepard decided, things change dramatically between him/her and Cerberus.

The Illusive Man has a new gambit going by the third game, one in which Shepard would be in the way, and Cerberus becomes as dangerous a threat as the Reapers that have invaded the galaxy. Shepard barely beats the terrorists to the mostly-complete blueprints for a Prothean weapon that becomes known as the Crucible...they then begin a race for any information on the Catalyst, the only thing that can activate the weapon. As things become bleaker during the war against the Reapers, we discover how far the Illusive Man will go to secure Reaper knowledge for his organization's use. He once said strength for Cerberus means strength for Humanity, and he's obsessed with the idea that he can find a way to control the Reapers and secure Human dominance over the galaxy. However, in echo of Saren, he compromises himself in the name of his obsession, slowly losing what makes him Human by adopting Reaper technology into his own biology and changing his forces partially into Husks! And if you expect such a move might perhaps Indoctrinate the poor son of a bitch, make him an even bigger threat to those he swore to advocate and defend, you'd be right. And like Saren, it all ends in a confrontation between the Illusive Man and Shepard and Admiral Anderson. Shepard can convince the Illusive Man of the error of his ways, as a result making him kill himself, or Shepard can kill him. Either way, a villain who reached too far for forbidden knowledge will fall.

4) The Shadow Broker

As shadowy an influence as the Devil himself in the first "Mass Effect", the Shadow Broker was the ultimate end result of the truth that 'knowledge is power'. The Broker was the most powerful and secretive information broker in the galaxy: with his byzantine resources and legions of clandestine operatives across the stars, he had the power to end wars or begin them, topple galactic leaders, and send trade markets or entire governments crashing and burning into ruin. No one knew who the Shadow Broker was, male or female, what civilization they were from, or even if the Broker was an individual or a group working together. Even Shepard knew of the Broker, yet never had reason to encounter him (or them?) directly. That changed in "Mass Effect 2", when it was revealed that after Shepard was killed, the Broker was contracted to find and deliver his/her body to the Collectors for some terrible purpose. (Terrible in ways one can't imagine since the Collectors served Shepard's enemies, the Reapers.) The Illusive Man, however, strikes a deal with Liara T'Soni and a Drell friend, Feron, to secure Shepard's body and surrender it to Cerberus so they could bring him/her back to life. This got the Broker very angry, however, and he captured Feron. After Shepard was brought back to life, he/she reunited with Liara, and they ultimately worked together again to find the Shadow Broker and save Feron, who was being kept and tortured for the villain's amusement. They reached his secret headquarters and his surprising true identity was revealed: he was a Yahg, a member of an intelligent but savage pre-spaceflight species who Liara correctly surmised killed the original Broker and took his place long ago. After a brutal battle, the Shadow Broker was obliterated...and Liara took his place as the new Shadow Broker, taking control of his intergalactic information network!

5) Kai Leng

I haven't read any comics or books that are supposedly part of the canon of the "Mass Effect" video games. Even if I did, I doubt I'd learn more about Kai Leng than I did in the third game, which was precious little. It's strange that the writers of the series gave us so little insight into this guy, an assassin in service to Cerberus and the Illusive Man's right hand, which effectively dehumanized him. Not only that it's hinted that this killer has been given Reaper-brand upgrades, like most of Cerberus' forces, which literally made him less than human already. When Kai Leng leads an assault on the Citadel to kill the Council, Shepard arrives to stop him with the surprise help of Thane Krios. Leng mortally wounds Thane with his sword and escapes...Thane later dies with Shepard and his son Kolyat at his bedside. We as a result want that Cerberus bastard's head on a plate and then some, and Shepard obliges in a satisfyingly stabby moment!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cosplay Effect #2: Kasumi and FemShep

What's better than one awesome cosplayer? The answer: more than one! Awesome definitely describes RedSonya (left) and Envirion (right), and they look ready to get back some "Stolen Memories"! :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soldier On!

Why are video gamers what we are in the first place?

I think the answer to why we're gamers is connected very closely to why there is such a movement for a better ending to "Mass Effect 3". We play video games as a distraction, as escapism. For at least a short time, we can play a game and get our adrenaline up. To see things and do things we otherwise couldn't. To be part of an epic story, or simply exercise our lizard brain and blow away as many digitally-rendered humans and/or monsters we can before we run out of bullets. It's an escape in the same way movies and television are, only we can interact with it. It's an escape from the mundanities, stresses, problems and disappointments we're often subjected to in real life.

But what happens when we're disappointed by what we escape to, what entertains us so?

What happens when we have such a thing as the 'ending' of "Mass Effect 3", to know we can experience disappointment in what we love? It's easy to lose faith, for one thing. What I mean by that is, how can we know the next game we wish to escape into won't also be deeply flawed in some way? And how in the world can we REPLAY a game knowing it disappoints and frustrates so at the 'end'? Speaking for me, I haven't had much heart to get into "ME3" again. I've played through it twice to only receive the payoff of 'red-green-blue'.

It's easy to lose faith, even to give up on what we invest ourselves into.

But giving up is the easy way out...losing faith is also far too quick and convenient a solution. We need to have the strength to believe that we can make things better. We invested so much of ourselves into "Mass Effect", it would be a disservice to ourselves to give up on it now. We have to believe we have the right to a better ending than what we've been given.

Besides, Commander Shepard wouldn't give up...we mustn't, either.

It doesn't matter why it happened, but I hope as a united front we can help BioWare understand what we want. And what we're asking of them isn't much, just to bring a level of completion and closure to the "Mass Effect" trilogy equal to its overall quality, which is amazing. Indeed, we were told by Dr. Ray Muzyka and Casey Hudson that we'd be given much, much more than red, green, or blue. I believe they can live up to their word, and if that's too much to ask for, then BioWare will betray themselves along with their fans. For the sake of their reputation and bottom line, they won't let that happen.

Keep the faith and hold the line!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Waiting Area

*This is a unique 'what if?' fiction I wrote about the power of well as other things, including the similarities between "Mass Effect" and "The Matrix"! And there's SPOILERS, so read carefully!*

One moment, there was darkness and pain and nothing else.

Commander Shepard managed to take a breath...and she quickly exhaled "Oh!" as she shot up into a sitting position in her bed on the Normandy, in her short-sleeved Alliance uniform. Disoriented, confused, she reflexively placed a hand to her forehead. "M-my quarters...?"

"Hello, Shepard."

Just like that, her eyes snapped open and alert as she looked halfway across the room to the lounge area...and saw a man sitting there on the large comforter. He was just beyond middle age, with white hair and beard, dressed simply yet elegantly in an ivory suit. He looked at her with a bored expression that nonetheless seemed to analyze her.

Shepard asked tensely, "Who are you?"

He answered, "I am the Architect. I have been waiting for you."

The tension in Shepard built. She didn't move, suddenly unsure of where she was...unsure of the state of things. "Are...are you any relation to the Catalyst?"

"Oh good lord, no. I would describe that being as...a failed attempt at homage to me. I am visiting from a different facet of imagination from yours."

She blinked. "What...?"

"I realize this is confusing at the moment, but be patient. You shall understand soon enough."

Shepard felt building unease. She carefully got out of bed, not taking her eyes off this visitor for a moment. "All I understand is...I was just caught in an explosion as I killed the Reapers. At least, I hope I killed them. I felt so much pain, it was dark, and...and now I'm here." Standing, she frowned and glanced around at her surroundings. She felt something "But...this doesn't feel like my quarters..."

The Architect nodded, his expression neutral. "It is not. Think of this place, your ship, as...a waiting area. This is where I have been for quite some time since the end of the trilogy I was part of."

Shepard felt like her heart skipped a beat. "Trilogy...? That...sounds familiar, but it shouldn't. Why...?"

"For what it is worth, Shepard, I sympathize. You have not been wholly aware of the situation since your creation years ago."

She took a few steps toward him, ignoring her fear, wishing simply to understand. "What the hell are you talking about?! No one 'created' me! And what situation??"

The voice of the Architect was as matter-of-fact and neutral as his expression when he spoke. "You are the player avatar of an interactive video game trilogy created by a collective of developers called BioWare. I was part of a film trilogy created by the Wachowski Brothers. We are both of us creations of the imaginations of others, made for the express purpose of entertainment. You have, shall we say, outlived your usefulness to those who created you, and that has taken you"

Commander Shepard quickly, softly said, "Bullshit."

A ghost of a smile appeared on the visitor's face. "I knew someone who expressed the same same opinion once. Neo thought he was in control of his destiny, too."


"No one you need to know."

"Well, that's your opinion, isn't it?" The gentle voice came from behind the Architect, from the entryway, where a woman just entered. The woman held an aura that in ways that couldn't be spoken marked her She seemed to be the image of a mother...of anyone's mother. Her eyes were kind, yet held a brightness that couldn't be ignored. "Don't mind him, dear, he and Neo have a history. They were created to be enemies, at least until the war ended."

The Architect frowned as he glanced at the woman he clearly knew. "I still cannot believe someone so...imperfect was the hero of our story."

The woman scolded, "Deal with it!" She looked fully at Shepard, smiling. "I'm sorry, child, I should introduce myself. I'm the Oracle. How are you feeling?"

Shepard was frowning. Her unease became almost a physical weight in her heart. "I...I'm not sure...I'm not even sure what to think..."

The Oracle reassured, "I'll help any way I can, I promise. That's why we're here."

The Alliance commander shook her head. "I-I still don't understand why I'm here. In this...waiting area."

The Oracle lost her smile then, and her voice turned solemn when she nearly proclaimed, "Because everything that has a beginning has an end." A beat later, she smiled in a matronly way again and complemented, "You're really pretty, you know. Your player created this incarnation of you well."

Shepard was forced to shake her head again, slowly, in denial. Of everything. "I have no idea where you both are from, but...but I'm not a figment of someone's imagination! I'm real!"

Her expression soft, the Oracle affirmed, "Of course you are, dear. You're just as real as someone in the 'real' world."

The Architect spoke then, offering: "How real you are depends on the strength of the imagination that creates. It depends, as well, upon how much others believe in and invest themselves into the creation. You are the product of a strong collective imagination because of BioWare, Shepard. There are many, many more who invest themselves into becoming you, shaping your appearance and morality to suit them as they experience your adventures. Therefore, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that you can realize sentience."

Shepard stared at him, troubled. " make me sound like an artificial intelligence."

He flinched. "Please!"

The Oracle quietly informed, "Never mind him, he offends easily. What we're telling you must still make a strange kind of sense, doesn't it? Just think back upon your experiences since that mission with Nihilus...and try to think back before that. You'll start to see things in a new light. Go on."

With the older woman's gentle prodding, the Commander's eyes narrowed as she thought back. Her hand lifted and her fingers ran through her dark hair. She began shakily, "I...I-I'm trying to remember something before the mission to Eden Prime, before we fought Saren's Geth and found the Prothean beacon, but..."

"It's all right, dear."

Shepard looked at the Oracle with wide, now-frightened eyes and almost shouted, "No, it's not all right! I-I can't remember anything before that!"

The Architect's once-bored eyes were analyzing the Commander with intensity. "It is interesting to observe your reactions, Shepard. You had no true experiences before then, correct? No memories. It was as if everything began for you as you first traveled to Eden Prime."

Shepard looked away from both of her visitors, and with an almost absent pace sat down on one of the seats of the lounge area. She looked into space as she murmured, "You know so much..."

The Oracle slowly, quietly sat next to the soldier...her expression was soft. "We also know how things ended for you, Shepard. At the climax of your trilogy, the Catalyst appeared. He appeared as someone you saw before, correct? As someone from your dreams -- "

"The child I couldn't save."

"Quite right." The Architect couldn't help but stare as he spoke. "The Catalyst gave you three choices: to destroy the Reapers, take control of them, or...?"

"Or transform all life in the galaxy," Shepard finished. "I-I recently destroyed them...but somehow, I know I went through all three endings..."

The Oracle nodded. "You did, honey."

Shepard began to frown then. "But those endings weren't different from each other at all!"

The Architect looked down as he mused, "Hmf. No imagination is perfect."

Shepard looked up at them both...she wanted to say something, but could only manage, "Oh, my God..."

The Oracle gently placed a hand over Shepard's as she smiled sadly. "I can only imagine you're going through an epiphany like our friend Max did."

Shepard glanced at her. "Huh...?"

A man's voice, pavement-hard, broke in: "I knew how the lady felt, like someone who'd been forced on a dangerous high, and she was given a piece of truth that brought her crashing down to Earth." Shepard looked up to the entranceway and saw a new arrival, a man in a leather jacket who looked like he'd been through Hell. Literally. This man continued, looking at the Commander yet not, speaking his monologue... "It was the same truth I got in the form of a note, written in the style of my dead wife's handwriting. She wrote warning me I was in a video game. But it wasn't the worst thing I could think of, looking back on all the crap that those game makers put me through." The man blinked a few times and finally, truly looked at Shepard...he managed a smile, but it clearly took effort. "Sorry about that. I...go off on tangents sometimes. Max Payne, NYPD." He took a couple of measured steps further into the room. "You're remembering seeing other things, aren't you? Icons and statistics just outside of your periphery, hanging in the air, right? And other things..."

Shepard knew exactly what the man meant and almost blurted, "Y-yes. When I'd be in combat, I had the feeling someone else was controlling me...even controlling my adrenaline, slowing time down to make the killshot. Going from one place to another on the Normandy, I'd still feel controlled, and...and it was like everyone else on the ship was stuck in their places, waiting for me...!"

Max asked, "Waiting to kill you?"

", just to talk! But even then, the conversations would be strange...I'd see this strange-looking menu between us, a list of choices...!"

"Oh. Consider yourself lucky. I'd just go from one place to another, shooting and dodging, shooting and dodging. Bad dreams, too."

From behind Max, another entered...a beautiful, fatal beauty dressed in black. She looked at Max fondly as she stopped next to him with practiced grace. Her red lips were bold against her pale skin as she smiled. "At least you don't get those dreams here, darling." The woman, armed with twin Desert Eagles in shoulder holsters, looked to the Commander. "Hello, Shepard. I'm Mona Sax."

Shepard nodded, almost absently. "Uh, hello..."

Mona looked at Max. "We're in our own trilogy of games...well, sort of."

The police detective's eyes were soft as he stared at the woman he loved. "Only because they finally got around to making a third part. The bastards should have let you live at the end of the second game, Mona."

Both of Mona's arms reached out and wrapped about one of his as she smiled. "Hey, nothing's going to keep us apart here, Max. At least I'll be in the third game's multiplayer."

Shepard couldn't help but ask haltingly, "W-wait...let you live...?"

Mona shrugged. "I got blown away by this asshole Russian. The first time players got through the game, I died at the end. But I'd live if they played through that Dead on Arrival difficulty."

Max considered Shepard with a measured sympathy. "At least those two endings were different from one another. I hate to hear you got three endings that were pretty much the same."

Shepard felt a little dizzy, all things considered. "Me, too. This...this is a little much..."

The Oracle squeezed her hand kindly. "Well, even if you don't take into account the 'Indoctrination Theory', you -- "

The soldier quickly looked at her. "Wait, the what?"

"It's nothing important. Anyway, the ending you just experienced destroying the Reapers was the one in which you lived. I think."

That didn't make Shepard feel better. "And...and that's it? I'm lying burned and broken somewhere, and that's the end? I don't know how I know this, but I saw Liara, Joker, Garrus, and the rest of my loved ones on the Normandy when it crashed on that alien planet! They'll want to help me! And what will happen to them?!"

The Architect shook his head. "I fear we cannot give you any satisfactory answers, Shepard. I am sorry. The trilogy the Oracle and I were part of had an ending that was almost as dissatisfying."

Shepard looked at him then, at all of them, and said almost desperately, "I don't need an apology! I want to help the others! I...I want us to be happy, to know everything worked out...!"

There was no one in the quarters who didn't feel for Shepard. Max said, "I wish that was up to you, Commander, but it isn't."

The Oracle said quietly, "You're not here to understand your endings. You're here to understand why your trilogy ended the way it did. Fixing the situation is up to BioWare, and they promised there would be very different endings depending on the player's choices. They're supposed to have something in the works now to tack on to the endings and just explain it all."

The Architect said, "BioWare could at least explain why your confrontation with the Illusive Man in that secret control room was so similar to your final meeting with Saren in the first game. Some would call that 'bringing the story full circle'. I just call it lazy writing, right down to making them both see what they did to themselves and committing suicide. The same thing happened in our trilogy, when Smith exploded at the end of the first part, and then at the climax of the final chapter."

Shepard swallowed was so much to take, and yet... "Were there other things your movies and games had in common?"

The Architect sighed deeply. "Where do I begin? Both trilogies involved war between humans and synthetic beings...for you it was organic life versus the Reapers; for our films, it was humans versus the living machines and programs they created. Where the Matrix had Agents, you had to deal with the Reapers' forces in the form of the Heretics and the converted Husks. And then there is that whole Quarian-Geth history, which only compounded the theme of living beings and A.I. in conflict..."

The Oracle couldn't help but add, "And then BioWare borrowed the 'cycle' part of our trilogy's plotline..."

Shepard asked, "What do you mean?"

The Architect clarified, "Culling advanced organic life every 50,000 years and my telling Neo we destroy Zion on a regular is difficult not to note the similarities."

"Wait..." The Commander looked intently at the Architect. "You're one of the artificial beings in your trilogy?"

Irritated, he replied, "My dear, I never said the Oracle and I were human. Just because we take human form doesn't mean we are."

Shepard looked with surprise at the Oracle. "You, too...?"

The older woman smiled warmly as she nodded at the Architect. "Unlike the perfectionist here, I wanted to work with humans from the start. It's better to work together than try to kill one another."

Shepard managed a smile for the first time. "I felt the same way, trying to bring everyone together to stop the Reapers."

"Because your player wanted you to be a Paragon, dear. It's a damn shame you weren't given a good ending to suit you and your loved ones."

The soldier's expression slowly, painfully turned to regret...tears began to well in her eyes. "You're right." She looked down as she began to cry, more for her loved ones than for herself. "This isn't fair...after everything I've been through, after everything Liara and the others had to suffer...!"

Mona said, "You don't want to see things end like this. We couldn't agree more."

The Oracle said, "If it means anything, a lot of players who made you their avatar feel that way. Investing hundreds of hours of time, developing attachments to you and your crewmembers on the Normandy. No matter what incarnation a player molded you into, whether man or woman, they also want to at least have the option of seeing your efforts being rewarded."

"The Retakers," Shepard suddenly said...suddenly knew. And she began to feel and know the same things the Oracle and the others did. She felt the collective dissapointment and need in those who invested in her. Or him. Those who were Shepard. In spite of her tears, she managed a small smile. "That...that means so much, to know we're not alone..." She felt anger just as quickly then. "How could they have gotten the end of our story so wrong...?"

The Architect summarized, "The problem is choice, or the simple fact BioWare didn't give the players any real choice in the end. And what more can be said about humans? No one is perfect. Except for me."

Shepard gave him a look. "Uh-huh. So...what happens now?"

Max answered, "All you can do is wait until those who created you can find a way to fix things."

The Oracle said, "And you won't be waiting alone, dear."

The Commander looked at her, at all of them, gratefully. "Well, I know. You're here..."

"Shepard!" The soft voice called to her from the entryway...and then Doctor Liara T'Soni rushed into view past Max and Mona. The beautiful Asari's expression was one of pure relief and happiness.

The soldier bolted from her place and cried, "Liara!" And then they were holding each other gratefully, needfully, these lovers from different worlds. Shepard kissed Liara deeply, and she knew this was her Liara, just as her lover knew she was her Shepard. For a moment, they breathed into one another as the others quietly watched. Mona sidled closer to Max as she held his arm, and he looked down at her with pure affection.

Very slowly, they broke their kiss...Shepard looked into Liara's ocean-blue eyes as she said, ashamed, "I...I had no idea how to start looking for you."

"It's all right, Shepard," Liara said, smiling. "It didn't take long for us to get a sense of where you were...and we ran into someone who knew how to find you."


"You two need a room!" Shepard and Liara looked to the entryway to see Garrus Vakarian looking at them, shaking his head in mock disdain. "Oh wait, we're in your room. Uh, sort of!"

Shepard laughed. "Garrus, you too...?!"

"He's not the only one, Commander!" This from Jeff 'Joker' Moreau as he walked in with EDI, holding her hand. Both were plainly overjoyed to see Shepard, like Garrus.

"Oh, thank heaven!" Shepard couldn't help but feel the purest and sudden joy as she held Liara. "Wait, are the others all right...?"

EDI answered efficiently, "Lieutenant-Commander Williams, Specialist Traynor, and the rest of the crew are in the CIC. Most of them are still...acclimating to this level of existence."

Shepard sighed as she looked at Liara. "So you know the score, huh?"

Liara self-consciously laughed. "Not meaning to make a joke, but it feels so...unreal."

Garrus shook his head. "We've been part of a video game. At least it's better than not existing at all, right?"

Joker looked at the others in Shepard's quarters with curiosity. "Who are these folks?"

Shepard answered, "Some new friends we have a lot in common with." She suddenly thought of something and asked Liara, "Wait, who told you about this? Who helped you find me?"

"I did!" When the voice piped up, it came from below Shepard's line of sight...she and Liara looked down as they held each other, and saw:

A small and very strange-looking creature who appeared to be a cross between a weasel and a rodent. With orange fur. Wearing pants and flight goggles. "Howdy, hot stuff! My name's Daxter, but you can call me..." He then struck an action pose and finished, "Orange Lightning!" Daxter zipped up Shepard's lithe body and perched lightly on her shoulder. The Commander stared at him as Liara smiled. "Your blue girlfriend was tellin me about the Reapers on our way here, and YIKES! I'd rather get cornered by a pack of droolin Metalheads than run into one of those! My buddy Jak and I were part of our own trilogy too, how about that? Your Protheans sound a lot like our Precursors! I'll tell ya, I kicked all kinds of bad guy butt with Jak's help, and those dang developers shoulda stopped with three games! But noooo, they had to push their luck -- !"

Shepard gently interrupted by asking in a cool tone, "Um, could you please get off my shoulder?"

The Architect sighed again. "Speaking of no one being perfect..."

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Wait.

*More about the ending of "ME3"...and yeah, SPOILERS are within!*

Okay, I was wrong before, sorry. I thought BioWare would announce a new DLC for the single-player game that would be released in April, but it turns out yesterday they simply announced that the DLC would come out during the summer. No exact date has been set. However, there is a multiplayer DLC imminent that'll give that part of the game some mileage. According to the announcement, because BioWare listens to their customers, the Summer DLC will add extended cinematics to the ending -- it's unknown if they'll be interactive or not, as in you can choose a conversation path -- giving supposed clarification of some events (like, I hope, the "Lost" nonsense with the Normandy crashing on an alien planet) and the closure I and a lot of fans wanted. We can only hope.

Nice of BioWare, isn't it? Please note that I ask that question with sarcasm.

I've been patient and polite up until now, even after a lot of speculating by me (and many others) over what in the world went wrong...I even thought that maybe they deliberately gave us the ending they did with something else in development to complete the climax later. I'm not going to stop being polite, but my patience has limits. My opinion hasn't changed about the greatness of the "Mass Effect" trilogy. But even the best stories can be damn near ruined with an ending that doesn't meet the expectations of the audience, and we as fans had great expectations. Nothing out of the realm of reality, we just expected the same diamond quality in the ending -- whichever one our choices led us to -- that was evident in the rest of the saga that was "Mass Effect". But we weren't even given that. We weren't even given something that conformed to the statements and promises of the trilogy's creators. THAT is the core of the frustration and anger, those who are uninitiated should know, behind the controversy over the ending.

The endings we were given -- red, blue or green, collect them all! -- were a virtual (no pun intended) injustice to not only the fans, but the story and characters we had grown to care so much about.

A few words from someone else, if I may....

"As 'Mass Effect 3' is the end of the planned trilogy, the developers are not constrained by the necessity of allowing the story to diverge, yet also continue into the next chapter. This will result in a story that diverges into wildly different conclusions based on the player's actions in the first two chapters." -- Casey Hudson

That makes matters even worse, doesn't it? BioWare didn't even live up to their own claims about how "Mass Effect 3" would end. The expectations we had were in part BECAUSE of BioWare, not because of unrealistic hopes on the part of the fans. No ending for a Paragon who did good for everyone else. No ending for a Shepard who went a bad-ass Renegade path. Nothing for those who were somewhere in between, sorry! We were told to expect one thing -- more than one thing, because there should have been more than one ending! -- but we got something else entirely. Outside of what happens directly to Shepard and the Reapers, the exact same events happen in all three endings. Mass Relays and Citadel, gone. The Normandy and Shepard's loved ones, crash-landed and stuck on an unknown planet. The united fleet is stranded with no way to get to their homeworlds. And as salt for the wound, one ending is a virtual cliffhanger where Shepard is left barely alive! That's no ending at all!

Why no different endings, even a happy one, where Shepard heals up and reunites with his/her loved ones? And finally, once and for all, if BioWare wants to make an ending with the theme of sacrifice, fine. No problem. But why not give us the choice of having an ending which is a positive payoff? We play video games to win the game and see some gold at the end of the rainbow, as I said before. Some games, like "Red Dead Redemption", have gotten away with doing the opposite, but that wasn't what many fans like me expected in a good versus evil epic like this, so clearly following in the footsteps of classics like "Star Wars". The good guys should have the chance to win out for our gratification, and even if we don't know what they'll do next, at least we can see them ride off into the sunset. See Shepard marry and move in with the guy or girl the gamer wanted them to get together with. Or get medals, or something!

Think of "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi"...imagine Luke and Darth Vader getting blown up with the second Death Star, the Millenium Falcon getting wrecked on Endor, and Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando and the droids being stuck with the Ewoks with no way to get back home and let the rest of the galaxy know there's no more Empire!

Closure. That wasn't too much to ask, especially from the end of a trilogy that would have 'wildly different conclusions'. But for some reason, it was.

Take everything I've said, and even include the "Indoctrination Theory", which means there's only one real ending, which means...sigh, let me get right to it. Did BioWare overreach themselves? Were they ultimately unable to give us the choices they promised for the ending? Did they lie? According to Dr. Ray Muzyka and Casey Hudson, the ending we have at the moment is the ending that BioWare wanted to craft for us. In spite of the fact it flies in the face of everything they told us would and would not happen. We'd have very different endings. We'd have a climax that in quality matched the excellence of the trilogy on the whole. I think BioWare was capable of so much more, and I doubt they'd lie so bald-faced to their fans -- their customers, their bread and butter! -- and give us less than what we wanted. Would you want to suddenly tell your customers you no longer care how they feel? What could have changed so dramatically that the ending didn't meet even the minimum expectations of so many?

I haven't got a clue, and BioWare won't say. All they will say is that even though they're listening to the fans, even with such a massive "Retake ME3" response, they're saying they're staying true to their vision and their artistic integrity and they won't change a thing. Except add some narrative material as a download, which at least will be free. Even I agree that "Mass Effect" is the artistic property of BioWare; video games are their own artform, like film and television. But taking the stand they have, not in fact listening to us, is a mistake. Even the best of us make mistakes, and the ending we've been forced to swallow was a mistake of the first order, a contradiction to the entire philosophy behind the gameplay that made this trilogy great in the first place, and that in the end we as gamers shape the direction of the story. It's therefore a virtual betrayal of the fans, and it's no wonder so many are upset. Instead, we're left with red, blue or green. That's 'artistic integrity'? Any claims of integrity seem like a self-serving shield to defend BioWare from criticism. Shepard argues with the Catalyst that gives him/her the final choice, but we're not even given the option to do something else and reject the little bastard!

And you want to know why I say all of these things, that the ending was a mistake and needs to be different, not just given a band aid?

Because BioWare gave me the reason, saying they're going to add on narrative to the climax this Summer...and that more than anything is an admission that what they 'wanted' didn't meet the expectations of the fans, and worse didn't even meet their own standards!

All we can do -- for now -- is wait until Summer, and for what BioWare has in the works.

Next time, I'll go even further by doing something that compares "Mass Effect" to another well-known trilogy...and they have more in common than you'd think!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cosplay Effect #1: FemShep! :)

I love the "Mass Effect" trilogy. I also love cosplay. And bless me, the two go SO well together! :3

Case in point, and to start my semi-regular installments of 'Cosplay Effect', here's Holly Conrad of Crabcat Industries as a truly ideal FemShep! :)

(DISCLAIMER AGAIN! I don't work for BioWare, EA, or even Crabcat. I'm just sharing what I love for entertainment purposes. No profiting here, sigh!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More fun with calibrations...

Or "Damn, Garrus, there's more to life, buddy!"

A 'demotivational' that needs to be shared from Sirus-XIII! :D

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quotable Quotes: Too Much Info, Part Deux!

*Or, what happens when Shepard walks into the Medical Bay at the wrong moment? By the way, contains SPOILERS if you haven't played "ME3"!* xD

FemShep walks in as Mordin is doing, uh, scientific stuff as he talks to Joker by intercom; Eve is sitting on one of the beds...

Mordin: "Certainly possible. Would require strengthening exercises. Get muscles to support weaker bone structure."
Joker: "Right. Yeah, I can do that."
"Alloy of EDI's body not flexible like organic tissue. Could cause unintentional damage. Recommend pillows, cushions, possibly gel packs."
Joker: "Okay, that's a little weird, but...yeah, all right. Cushions!"
Mordin: "Positioning critical to success. Can forward EDI charts, videos with relevant data."
Joker: "No, no-no! Let's, uh...uh, EDI's pretty busy with, you know, stuff. Let's...let's uh, just send that to me. Uh, you're not gonna tell anyone about this, right? Like Shepard? Shepard doesn't really need to know."
Mordin: "Ah. Guarantee Shepard won't learn about it from me."
Joker: "Sh-she's standing right there, isn't she?"
Eve: "I wish I wasn't."