Posts Tagged Dragon Age 2

The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 21: The pre-Gamescom slump

The Nitpixels Podcast returns this week with your hosts Alex Ziebart, Matthew Rossi, and Mat McCurley. Michael Sacco could not be with us this week due to becoming a physical manifestation of Sin.

This week our discussion topics include:

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store can take an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it may not immediately display on the page.

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Show if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

, , , , , , ,

2 Comments

The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 19: FYI I’m a spy

The Nitpixels Podcast returns this week with your hosts Alex Ziebart, Matthew Rossi, Mat McCurley, and Michael Sacco. This week’s discussion topics include:

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store can take an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it may not immediately display on the page.

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Show if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 6: All roads lead to Dragon Age


The Nitpixels Podcast returns this week with your hosts Alex Ziebart, Matthew Rossi, and Mat McCurley. Mike Sacco is out yet again this week, and I’m starting to doubt his claims of a bad internet connection. I assume he’s just ashamed of being heard in public with us.

This week the Nitpixels crew discuses…

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Podcast if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store can take an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it may not immediately display on the page.

, , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Sexuality is Not a Game Mechanic

Dragon Age 2, BioWare’s latest RPG offering, allows players to strike up romantic relationships with party members regardless of the gender of the player character or the NPC in question. Basically, if your ideal romantic interest would have to be homosexual/bisexual in order to be romantically compatible with your particular character, they will be. This also means that you as a player may periodically experience flirty conversation from NPCS that might not match up with the sexuality you intend for your character.

After a self-professed “straight male gamer” posted on the BioWare forums complaining that he was getting hit on by male characters while playing as the male version of Hawke, BioWare’s senior writer David Gaider gave a fantastic response: essentially, “get over it.” Gaider affirmed that BioWare is committed to giving players of all sexualities the opportunity to pursure romantic interests in whatever configuration they please, which is fantastic, and a real step forward for video game relationships in general.

Somehow, though, I’m still finding cause for concern.

Video games have been struggling for a long time now to be recognized as a legitimate art form, largely because it’s not been until recently that games have even had the opportunity to have extended dialogue, like books, and voice acting, like movies. The increase in “cinematic-ness” (cinematicity?) has also led to an increase the number of memorable, “real” characters present in games.

To be fair, though, games and movies and books are often all striving for very different things. A fantasy book you read or movie you see in theaters has the aim to entertain you, to tell its own story, to present its characters in a specific set of scenes and situations. Things are a little different in modern role-playing games, especially where BioWare is concerned. While still taking part in an over-arching narrative, you’re given the opportunity to shape the world (and the narrative itself) through your decisions and interactions. And even your main character, normally the rigidly-defined cornerstone of a narrative, isn’t set in stone; you can choose different backgrounds, appearances, and, in this case, sexualities as well.

Now, contrary to what sitcoms and movies would like you to believe, “homosexual” is not a personality trait. Neither is “bisexual” or “asexual” or “only sleeps with big disfigured metal space bugbirds” (don’t judge me). But it is part of a character, of a person. Sexuality shapes interactions both personal and public, and lots of other facets of a character. Which is why BioWare’s choice concerns me.

Let me give you some perspective. I liked Final Fantasy VII just fine, but I didn’t love it like I loved Final Fantasy IX. In FFVII, with the exception of some small stat differences, all characters behaved fundamentally identically in battle thanks to all of their skill assignments being handled with Materia, useable by anyone with no restrictions. Anyone could do anything, which was a far cry from the highly specialized characters of FFIX. If I needed brute force, I knew to use Steiner. In FFVII, anyone could be my brute-force guy (or gal).

Now, perhaps it’s fallacious to use game mechanics as analogues to “real-life” traits. In fact, I know it is, and I’ll get to that. So I’ll put it in a different way. In a BioWare game, like in a good movie or book, I can expect a character to generally act a certain way. I know Garrus will have a deadpan one-liner for lots of situations. I know Miranda will choose (and suggest that I choose) the most pragmatic option in most circumstances. These are the ways these characters work, the way they react to things. They’re integral parts of their character.

So what’s not integral? Stuff that relates to or works with game mechanics. Is Miranda a fundamentally different character if she uses submachine guns instead of pistols heavily in my game as compared to my friend’s game? No, she’s still a femme fatale ice queen. Her choice of gun has an effect on gameplay, not narrative — two very different things. It affects how I experience the narrative, perhaps, but not the narrative itself. That krogan was going to meet his end regardless of the weapon used, and Miranda would still shrug it off because that’s who she is. And so is her sexuality.

Essentially, by making it something that can be adjusted, changed, deleted, what’s happening is that BioWare isn’t treating sexuality like a character trait. They’re treating it like a game mechanic. And in an oeuvre that includes games in which “relationship” has historically (and unfortunately) been defined as “a minigame with sex as a reward,” that’s actually not that surprising. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to please players of all sexualities would be to give them a handful of relationships meaningful outside of the pursuit of a PG-13 sex scene, not give them access to a large number of ultimately trivial ones.

If it sounds like I’m condemning BioWare’s decision, I truly am not. I don’t envy BioWare in their effort to please people of all sexualities, and envy them even less in trying to legitimize an art form. In fact, I don’t even think this is a bad solution to the heterosexual male-dominated “gaming culture” that thinks elves are “gay” even when they aren’t. It’s just that there’s still a long way to go if we want games to be societally progressive and a legitimate art form, and part of the latter is not just continuing to sacrifice the building blocks of a character in the name of game mechanics when there simply must be other ways to do it. Even if we haven’t thought of them yet.

, , , , ,

5 Comments

The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 4: Fish heads fish heads

This week’s edition of the Nitpixels Podcast is now available for download! Host Michael Sacco is missing in action yet again, but Matthew Rossi, Mathew McCurley and Alex Ziebart are in attendance to discuss all things gaming … along with a significant aside about Conan the Barbarian.

This week the Nitpixels crew discusses…

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Podcast if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store can take an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it may not immediately display on the page.

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

The Nitpixels Podcast Episode 3: I really want to do her

The third episode of the Nitpixels Podcast is now available for download with hosts Mathew McCurley, Matthew Rossi and Alex Ziebart. Michael Sacco was out of commission this week, likely a conspiracy to prevent Mike and Alex from being on the air at the same time.

This week, the Nitpixels crew discusses…

Be warned that toward the end of the podcast, there are Dragon Age II spoilers. However, the hosts give clear cues as to when these are incoming, so a careful listener can very likely avoid them all.

Do you have a question you would like to ask the Nitpixels crew? Have comments about the podcast? Email us at mailbag@nitpixels.com and we’ll answer it on the next edition of the Nitpixels Podcast if it strikes our fancy. You can also tweet any of us your questions — you can find our Twitter handles on the right-hand side of this very page (unless you’re on our mobile site).

You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below, download it directly via the link below, or download and subscribe via iTunesNote: The iTunes store is going through a slow phase and is taking an extraordinarily long time to display new episodes on the podcast page. If you subscribe, it will download the episode for you, even though it does not display on the page.

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

The story/game disconnect in CRPGs

Spoilers for several games, past and present, including Dragon Age II abound in this post.

Computer RPGs excel in many, many ways. They can present a unified visual, with voice acting, immediate character visuals, and fantastic locales all realized for your playing convenience. Think of how hard it would be for a game master to create the milleu of Mass Effect through his or her voice alone.  But one element of the tabletop RPG that has always been nigh impossible for CRPGs to present is the ability to make shit up on the fly. To give an example, imagine you have the same scenario in both an RPG and a tabletop dungeon crawl – a boss fight that requires the players to fall into a trap behind one of two doorways. If this trap is necessary to set up the scene, the easy thing to do is to set it up so that no matter which door the party opens, that’s the door with the trap.

The problem here is that in a CRPG, there are things like save games and replays, so the players will learn fairly quickly that the game cheated, and that either door presents you with the trap. In a pen and paper game, there’s no replay and even if the suspicious players go and check the other door, a GM can blithely lie to them and have there be no sign of a trap. Yes, in each case you were railroaded. But in case A, you can easily find out, because the game can’t cover its tracks.

CRPGs have to balance a very careful line, leveraging their assets to make you forget that in the end, the story is by necessity on rails. Even when a game presents you with options and choices that can determine the outcome, it can only present you with so many because the story has to end somewhere.  There’s only so much room on those game discs or in that file download for variation, much as if you were ultimately reading a choose your own adventure book or using a flowchart. The game’s goal, therefore, is to make you forget that. It does so with all of the bells and whistles at its command, ultimately, and by making use of as many ‘non-choice choices‘ as it can get away with.
Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Dragon Age II – The review in which I spoil the hell out of this game so if you don’t like that, why are you still reading this headline? It’s only going to get worse.

I am simultaneously awed by and slightly disappointed with Dragon Age II.

Awed by the art of the game, by the improved combat system, by the quest flow. Awed by how much work obviously went into it. Awed by the decision to focus away from the Gray Wardens who were the stars of the previous game and instead focus on a ten year period of time and unfold a story over that ten year period. Awed by some really excellent in places voice acting and dialogue options, and by a dialogue system that actually creates a voice for your character based on the kind of dialogue you choose over time. (For instance, my first Hawke almost always choice the diplomatic route and so his tone was far less sarcastic than my second playthrough.) This is a superlative game. This is a game that is superior than its predecessor in almost every single way from gameplay to storytelling.

The original, however, does not have so unrelentingly grim and painful a theme as does its sequel. In Dragon Age: Origins, you play a hero in a time of crisis who stands up against both disastrous unnatural entities bent on destroying all life while also taking action against those who attempt to use the crisis to ascend to power. While it’s a bleak and horrific threat you face, the game itself has a tone of optimism in the face of the disaster and in the end the triumph that comes feels wholly complete and justified. Furthermore, choices you make really feel as though they had a positive impact on the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

, ,

2 Comments

Dragon Age 2: My bleary eyed response

This is intended as a kind of infodump reaction to the game. A full review will be coming as soon as I replay a few times.

It’s a good game all told. I just finished it, blazing through it in two nights of painful insomnia, and I will doubtlessly play it again to catch up on all the side quests I missed. Some of what Alex said in his demo impression holds true for me. While I think the female body type worked fine for Isabella, it’s very disconcerting to see every female in the game, even your mom, expanded to such proportions. My wife made the point that if your apostate sister was really serious about hiding from the Templars, that dress she has on isn’t going to avoid her any attention. She’s right. It’s even weirder when Flemeth shows up in her wildly different new outfit but the story tells you it’s taking place at the same time as the events of Ostagar and Lothering from DA:O. I get that Varric wouldn’t know what Flemeth used to look like, but it was still weird to see her with a boob window.

From here on in will be spoilers. So don’t read any further if you don’t like those.

Read the rest of this entry »

, , ,

3 Comments

Dragon Age II demo impressions

I didn’t like the first Dragon Age. I’m a die hard Mass Effect fan and I really wanted to like Dragon Age: Origins, but overall I thought the game fell flat. Some cool ideas, certainly, but it never really gripped me. I went into the Dragon Age II demo with extremely low expectations, prepared for more of the same — even the reviews and previews on major gaming outlets didn’t do much to sell me on the changes to the series in DA2.

The demo is fun. I didn’t expect fun, but fun I got. The combat is more enjoyable than Dragon Age: Origins (in my opinion, obviously), the Mass Effect-ization of the main character Hawke helped pull me into what little story there was in the demo sequences, and it was overall a more engaging experience. My brief experience with the demo was above and beyond my experience with Dragon Age: Origins, and it very well may have reversed my decision to not buy Dragon Age II.

I still have gripes, however. Allow me to detail them!

Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , , ,

6 Comments