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Spam Spam Spam Humbug 10 - Mass Effect 4, Ultima 6 and the Future of the Codex
August 19, 2015

Spam Spam Spam Humbug 10 - Mass Effect 4, Ultima 6 and the Future of the Codex

In which Withstand the Fury Dragon geeks out for a bit about Mass Effect 4 and Ultima 6, and muses upon the future of the Ultima Codex.

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Crash Landing, from the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack.

Podcast Topic(s)

I was going to talk about some of the recent rumours surrounding the next Mass Effect game — which I'll refer to as Mass Effect 4 here even though that evidently isn't what it will be called. Yeah, it's not Ultima-related...but Mass Effect 4 does have, as its lead designer, a certain Mr. Ian Frazier...whom I hope we all recognize as Tibby, the project lead for Ultima V: Lazarus (which we still need to do an episode about at some point).

There's a couple things in particular that I want to call out in and among all the leaked details:


Building upon the rich history of strategic dialogue that has defined the Mass Effect series, you can make meaningful choices in every conversation you have with characters that impact the way your game evolves. The next Mass Effect adds deeper control over your conversations through a greater ability to interrupt and change the course of the conversation as it is happening. During certain conversations, you will be able to take action based choices, such as the option to pull out your gun and force someone to open a door instead of convincing them to do it through conversational guile. Action based choices give you more options for how you approach dialogue with characters in the game and can lead to more extreme outcomes on the story as it evolves around the decisions you make when interacting with a huge cast of NPC characters.

Seamlessly Travel Through the Next Mass Effect Universe:

As you pilot your space ship, Tempest, across the 100s of solar systems that are seamlessly connected in the next Mass Effect, you will encounter new planets filled with valuable resources, intelligent life, conflict, and alien technology that all give you opportunities to increase the power of your character, your ship and your team so that you can build them into a force that perfectly suits your gameplay style. Transitions between activities, like flying your Tempest (space ship) across a solar system to land on a mineral rich planet, then jumping into your Mako (land vehicle) to explore the surface of planet, all happen smoothly without loading screens.

The first Mass Effect game featured planetary exploration as well; you could tool around in the Normandy, hopping from world to world, and often you would find a planet that you could land the Mako on and go driving over the surface of. Granted, a lot of the time, one planet was the same as another; there were some enemies to kill, maybe a base or roving vehicle to find, and some resources or technology to trip over. And a lot of the bases used the same level template, with only minor cosmetic changes here and there.

But even with those flaws, it added a particular sort of depth to the game: you felt like you had a universe — or, at least, a galaxy — to explore. Mass Effect 2 and 3 boasted different systems when it came to moving between planets, and in particular featured far fewer opportunities to just get out and explore a piece of each world you encountered. It's one of the things I missed in those games, as compared to Mass Effect; even when the planetary environments were bland and uninteresting, the opportunity to set foot on, and explore, some alien world for no other reason than that it was there was good that the game let me do this.

So it's nice to see that feature making a comeback in a big way...and it's even better that it will be a seamless thing, which I hope is realized as well as it has been in the trailers for No Man's Sky.

The dialogue system is also something I have high hopes for, just based on some stuff that Ian said when I met him in Baltimore (shortly before he was hired by BioWare). He didn't say too much, but he did mention that he'd been toying with various ideas about morality systems in games, and in particular with ways to improve upon the BioWare formula. It will be interesting to see what innovations, if any, he is able to bring to the series in this respect.

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Ultima VI Gates of Creation by OC ReMix

Ultima 6

I think it would be appropriate to have an Ultima 6-focused episode and discussion with the entirety of the SSSH team, so I won't give too many thoughts on the game proper. But there are a few thoughts I wanted to share in light of this discussion about the game, and its 25th anniversary, on the Ultima Dragons Facebook page.

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Galizur by John Zorn and the Dreamers

The Future of the Codex

Having been in Houston all week, I didn't take the time to keep up with all of the various podcasts I listen to. Among others, I follow several of Father Roderick Vonhogen's podcasts (see: SQPN); if you saw the YouTube video of the priest geeking out over the new Star Wars trailer...yeah, that's him. So anyway, in the latest episode of his weekly The Break podcast, he got to talking about a book called The Founder's Dilemmas, by Noam Wasserman, which deals with the questions faced both by those who are about to start a new venture, and also those who must discover what to do to keep their venture going once it finds its footing. The big questions he highlighted as being topics of the work include asking what was our initial mission?, where are we now?, and where are we going?

I've been asking myself these questions a lot of late. So I thought I'd muse about them, and offer some attempts at answers, in this episode of the podcast. The result was rather more raw than I expected it would be.

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Mass Effect Theme, from the Mass Effect soundtrack.

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