Dear Diary by Iza87

Diary: July Arcadia


I’m not the sort of guy who spends inordinate amounts of time with a single game, even those I adore. In this I am unlike, say, Dylan, whose love affair with the Dark Souls series at one point seemed to have turned into a second career, such were the volumes of time he was sinking into it, to the exclusion of most other games. But I am beginning to feel a little like I understand how he feels, now that I am perhaps halfway through the weighty Mass Effect 3.

If you’ve missed the diary entries preceding this you might be unaware that I’m replaying the entire trilogy, including all story DLC (which I largely missed first time around). By the time this post goes live I will be at about the two calendar month mark, and perhaps one hundred and eighty hours (I’ve not been counting, so that’s a guess). I’m not sure that I’ve made such a singular, dedicated commitment to a single game series before. It’s been an experience full of weird little moments. Some past events in the games I remember sharply; others have already receded back into the mists of fuzzy memory. I’ve experienced shocks of deja vu that call back three, or five, or eight years. I find myself fact-checking stuff on wiki sites at odd moments, suddenly wanting to clarify a minor detail about a minor character. I’ve not directly dreamed about Mass Effect, but the games have impeded on my sub-conscious in subtler ways.

What do I make of all this? So far, uncontroversially, I quite like Mass Effect, and I miss other games.

A great amount of my free time has gone into this ridiculous ‘project’ so I’ve not played many other PC or console games in a while, with the exception of beating Castlevania: Harmony of Despair with AJ and Potter. I have, however, played a fair few mobile games, of which the latest is Fallout Shelter. I come a little late to that particular party as I don’t own an iOS device, but now that I’ve finally got my hands on it I’m enjoying it. It’s both a fun game and a cleverly designed piece of software; it’s obvious that a lot of research has preceded its development and that it’s underpinned by solid ideas concerning free to play models. I also wonder at its potential for longevity after an initial rush of fun… but perhaps it’s an acceptable concept for a free to play game to burn twice as bright for half as long.

My own game development efforts have been somewhat sluggish over the last few months, but together with a friend I am slowly learning to use the Unreal Development Kit for a personal project. It’s a bit of a change from Unity, which I’d spent the preceding year and a half learning to use, but I’m getting to grips with it. My duties on the project have seen me reading a fair amount about level design. If it turns out that I manage to produce some decent levels as a result of this research, I’ll write up my notes and publish them here. Alongside articles on Fallout Shelter and the Mass Effect trilogy, of course, assuming I can chain myself to a keyboard long enough to write them.



AJ reckons

This month has been all about abstinence from alcohol and as a result has been a miserable experience from beginning to end. My advice is that unless there is some medical reason that you need to give up drinking, don’t do it. No one will thank you for becoming a whiney arsehole who talks about wanting a drink all the time.


Captain N.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the passing of Satoru Iwata at the age of 55. This was easily the biggest, and saddest, thing to happen this past month.

Even an ardent SEGA fanboy like me admires what Iwata did in his early career – like re-writing the code for Earthbound to ensure that it shipped – and the things he did later in his career – such as taking a pay cut after the failure of the Wii U so as to not have to cut any staff.

Sure, I might not tear up over the fanart made after his passing, but it is clear from the mark he left on the gaming world that it is a lesser place without him.


The third coming

I’ve never finished Shenmue II. I wanted to, but Potter advised me not to as there was no guarantee that a sequel would ever come out, meaning I would be left with a cliff hanger ending that might never get resolved.

I donated to its record-breaking Kickstarter but I am not sure that I will be playing Shenmue III when it is released in 2017. I had to donate as it would have been hypocritical of me not to. However, years have passed since the second game and the entire gaming landscape has changed, while I am not sure that Shenmue will have. Even if it has, maybe it won’t have changed for the better. It is very much the same reason I have no interest in seeing the new Star Wars films.

In both cases I feel like I long ago parted ways with an awesome ex-partner and have just heard that they are doing something cool with their lives. There is a short pang of regret that I no longer get to share rejoicing in their successes but, at the same time, I know that I’ve moved on. I am no longer the person I was when I enjoyed that type of company and I know that I wouldn’t want to go back.


The trolls, the trolls

Our culture is constantly changing and this means that the subjects modern sociologists are studying are becoming more and more varied.

Whitney Phillips has tackled the subject of internet trolls and written “Why we can’t have nice things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture”.

The premise is a good one and I hope that the thesis picks up speed but the book is very much written for people who have almost no understanding of online culture, so the initial 40 pages or so is bogged down by explaining how everything works, mainly what the fuck ‘lulz’ are.

Still, worth checking out as a good entry point.


4 responses to “Diary: July Arcadia”

  1. Jonathan M Avatar

    Shaun —

    Interesting that you mention how much time Mass Effect takes to play as that really has been a significant barrier to my getting to grips with the game. It’s a bit like the new Dragon Age game, which follows the earlier games in having fighty bits and flirty bits but you used to be able to move through a fighty bit in about an hour and a half and now it takes for fucking EVER.

    I don’t know if it’s a function of age or dwindling attention spans but I can’t really justify spending a month reading some fuck-off huge SF novel and I can’t really justify spending hour after hour killing things in some virtual landscape. I’m reminded of that woman who was hounded from the Internet for suggesting that you should be able to click through fighty bits in the same way as you do cut scenes and I really think that she’s on to something.

    1. Shaun Avatar

      Eesh, I am terrible at checking for comments here at the moment. Sorry Jonathan!

      Yes, the time investment is immense, and although I’m fond enough of the games to enjoy embarking on this odyssey they’re not things I’d recommend widely. I definitely have some thoughts to explore vis a vis Mass Effect, timespans, my situation and speculation on others (alongside various other ideas), which hopefully I’ll have time to write about soon. I finished ME3 last night (although I need to repeat the final mission thanks to the extended cut DLC corrupting itself).

      I found the first Dragon Age a tremendous slog, much more tedious to plod through than any Mass Effect game despite a comparable length, and many of its areas were much longer than ME’s – which does at least tend to stagger you into an hour of combat, an hour of talking and exploring, and so on. But I never played the second and didn’t like the sound of Inquisition.

      As AJ says, guessing that was Jennifer Hepler. Pretty appalling response to a not unreasonable suggestion. I can’t imagine playing ME as just a combat/exploration or narrative/exploration game, because it’s more than the sum of those parts, which individually aren’t great. But I don’t think it’s unfair to give people the choice.

  2. badgercommander Avatar

    Jennifer Hepler?

    Yeah, I remember reading that and going ‘makes sense, especially with the inherently crappy gameplay in Mass Effect’ and then being appalled at the response to that.

    It also serves as more evidence that Quinn, Sarkeesian et al are not the first to receive this kind of abuse.

  3. […] from the contracting sphincter of a severe Mass Effect binge initially left me a little unsure of what to do and where to go. Delving so deep into one game or […]