Thursday, September 10, 2009

[I Just Died] In Your Arms

"I keep looking for something I can't get / Broken hearts lie all around me / And I don't see an easy way to get out of this"
During the design team morning meeting a couple of days ago, I reported that I would be starting my playthrough of Mass Effect 2 this week. As the primary manual editor, I like to play the game so I can understand how best to explain its mechanics. And also because, hey, who wouldn't want to spend their workday playing videogames? Before I even got back to my desk, a couple of designers stopped me in the hallway to tell me how important my playthrough is. I got to my desk and there were a few instant messages from people asking me how far I had gotten on my playthrough and if they could ask me questions about it. I hadn't even booted up my Xbox yet.
See, back on ME1, I sortof got designated as the team's Casual Gamer. I became the voice of all the people who enjoy playing videogames, but don't play regularly enough to intuitively know how to play. I remember the day it happened, too. Our big boss had heard that I found a couple of critical game balancing bugs during my playthrough, so he came to my office to see how I played the game.
He sat at my side for about 10 minutes and watched me die three times before helping me get through THE SECOND LEVEL. Then he stood up and walked out of my office without a word. About a half hour later, he came back to my office with a tech designer and they both watched me play for a while. It was a little creepy. Then the designer went away. My boss sat back down and said, simply, "We're tweaking the game so it will be more fun for you." Me? "Yeah. You're our Casual Gamer now." Oh.
After the morning meeting wrapped the other day, my boss apparently told the design team, "We're going to wait until Cookie's done her playthrough before finalizing gameplay." No pressure.
Yesterday, I finally got a chance to start my first playthrough. I played for a little over an hour, and did not make it through the tutorial. Here's roughly what happened:
Me: Okay, Shepard got her gun. I guess I should go through that door. [I take a deep breath] Man up, Cookie. [I go through the door.]
Tutorial: You might want to look for cover now. Maybe try vaulting that crate.
Me: Look for cover, yes. Good idea. And now I'll try vaulting. [Vault = FAIL] Um... okay, vaulting.... now! Yay! [Pew Pew!] Oh sweet lord! Who the fuck is shooting at me?! Where the hell is that coming from-- oh my god robot right in my personal dance space! Oh shit! [I shoot my gun.] Fuck! Where's the aiming reticle on this thing?! Ahhhh! Where's my cover?!
Tutorial: Don't worry, your armor is good. But there is an enemy approaching and you should find cover.
Me: What? Where? Holy crap! More robots! [I shoot some more.] Oh goddess of war! More robots! Ahhhh! [I shoot at the clutch of robots.]
Tutorial: Dude, seriously. How many times do I have to say this? Get behind cover and shoot the robot that is aiming at your head right now. Who the hell stands in the middle of the room during combat and shoots blindly at anything moving?
Me: Stop judging, bitchface! Maybe I can find more cover over ther--oh, now I've ghosted through geometry. Aaand now I'm in space. And my gun is drawn. Watch out, planets! Do I suck this bad or is this a bug? Fuuuuck!
At this point, Karin is crying from laughing so hard, which causes Patrick to come over from his office to point and laugh, and I just kept floating through geometry. I finally had to ask Dusty to give me a cheat code to get unstuck. And then:
Dusty: I'll give you an aiming tip: shoot at the robots instead of the ceiling or the floor.
Me: I'll give you a tip: fuck right the fuck off.
This morning, the tutorial designer and two combat designers sat with me as I played through the tutorial again. As I muttered directions to myself and occasionally shouted at the robots to hold on while I fuckin' get into cover damn, the designers chatted amongst themselves and made notes about the tweaks they needed to make to the game. Tomorrow, I play through the tutorial and a particularly difficult combat area, with the designers looking over my shoulder to see if their tweaks help me and, eventually, my fellow n00bs.
Before I began my playthrough, I had told the tutorial's designer that I died seven times within the first 25 minutes of ME1. At the time, the designer said it was impossible to die in the first 25 minutes of ME2. He don't know me vewy well, do he?
"[I Just Died] In Your Arms" by Cutting Crew. Yes. Cutting Crew. Shut up.
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