On the third effects of mass, and not on specific spoilers, I promise.

Is free will an illusion?

Do the actions of our past truly define our present and future, or is our ultimate destiny written in stone (or possibly some more complex but theoretically decypherably language scrawled across the universe)?

It’s one of the classic questions reflected in story ever since man first picked up the quill and began to write ponderous self-important fiction, and has persisted to the present day in which narrative has been honed to its ultimate form – pretentious, ponderous blog posts. And I believe I finally may be nearing an answer; it depends entirely on whether God is being forced to animate our destinies to a rigid launch date, and does he have to fit all the spoken dialogue onto two DVDs?

There’s a lot of smack being talked about Mass Effect 3. Fans worldwide are raging out about how the tantalizingly vast array of choices and sacrifices demanded throughout the game ultimately boiled down to one frustratingly closed-minded cutscene. I personally would agree that the game could be compared to being sexually edged for twenty to thirty hours by a master whore, only for it to finally be revealed that the whore is an expertly animated shop dummy, the considerable amount of money you spent on her now seems largely wasted, and that the pimp has crippled her in such a way that her resale value is diminished by her inability to perform multi-player for anyone but you.

That said, I’ve had a marvellously entertaining twenty to thirty hours, although if anone asked me to describe the game, I would probably say “harrowing”. Like some cross between Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise and Battle Royale, the game repeatedly re-introduces characters that you’ve come to love over the last three games; characters you’ve helped, and who have in turn helped you, and presumably ones you’ve gone to some degree of effort in the past to preserve. Then it pairs up your prized and beloved companions in front of you, loads a revolver, and asks you who you love more.

Somehow the actual choice here makes it more disturbing. When the acts of the plot murder your companions, it’s not so hard to take. The universe has taken them from you, and these not being real characters, you’re blameless. There’s no way they could have survived. The knowledge that more missions, more dialogue, and more touching moments exist for each character, and that you’re making a decision that robs them of that, can be gutwrenching at times. This is how Mass Effect has captured an element of Interesting Times that I’ve never really felt in a video game before; the loss, the waste, and the sacrifice. As much as I’ve enjoyed it, I couldn’t say it’s a wholly positive experience. Commander Shepard certainly isn’t a hero that women want to be and men want to be with. Although that said, Shepard does seem to inspire a certain bisexuality, and even Xenophelia, in almost everyone he/she meets.

The great tragedy is that after all this emotional battery, the game takes the bizarre and borderline psychopathic measure of reassuring you that you’re innocent of all these crimes and heroics, because what you’re ultimately given is a straightforward choice as to how you want to fuck the universe. The whore asks you where you’d like to blow your load; in her ass or the face? Maybe the classic creampie?

She then proceeds to donkey-punch you until your blood and semen trickly sadly down your leg into your crumpled underpants. I think we can probably leave that metaphor there.

Mass Effect 3 is, I would not deny, a great game, and narratively taps into a vein of emotion and inspiration that’s possibly never been mined before in the gaming meduium. It’s just a shame that after crafting a fascinating universe, pioneering the preservation of choice between installments and after probably more than a hundred hours of individual gameplay this labour of love sadly falls short of what we’ve come to expect, in the last ten minutes of the show.

Now if you’re still playing ME3 for the first time, I urge you to make the most of the excellent missions on offer, and not to be impatient for closure. Because it’s a bit shit.

Quality web development in the Sheffield area

Well, if you’re looking for some quality web development in the Sheffield area, I could do worse than recommend Rich Gwilliam, Sheffield Freelance Web Developer par excellence. Yeah, there’s some vested interests there, but the fact remains if you want a website doing for reasonable moneys, you could do a lot worse than hiring him. Ahem. You will also find blogs there of a technical nature and yet strangely similar in literogical style to the content you are so richly satisfied with at this fine webstop.

He’s dashing and suave, too.

Ahem.

“You are here”, AKA the Newswipe theme tune

Fans of minimal electronica (it’s not quite a chiptune, I think) and Charlie Brooker have no excuse not to listen to this:

It’s the full majestic eight minutes of the Fortdax remix of Nathan Fake’s “You are here”, both the perfect news theme tune and the perfect name for a news theme. Although the Newswipe version’s basically distilled one of the best bits, I still can’t stop listening to it in its entirety, and you should too.

Four free games you may never tire of

Sustainability is a hot issue these days, so in the interests of efficiency here’s a list of awesome games that write themselves as you play them.

Spelunky

SpelunkyIf you haven’t played Mossmouth’s freeware randomized Indiana-Jones-em-up, you absolutely should. Broadly speaking a cross between vintage platformer Rick Dangerous and one of your granddad’s rambling yarns that change every time he tells them, Spelunky is a prince among procedural games purely because every game you play is golden. Play it, you’ll die. A lot. And every time, you’ll love it. It’s being re-developed as a commercial XBox Live indie title, but is still (and will remain) available free for Windows. Because Mossmouth still got love for the streets.

Dwarf Fortress

I'm watching Inglorious Basterds.  Sweet jesus, this is the shittiest movie Brad Pitt's ever done.Tarn Adams’ sprawling epic Dwarf Fortress isn’t for the faint of heart. The vanilla version sports nethackesque ASCII-only graphics, though veterans hold that after a while you don’t see the code. It’s like the Matrix, with dwarves and the capacity to build infernal contraptions that drown invading armies with freshly pulped cats. It takes the form of a random-terrain basebuilding sim in the vague style of Dungeon Master, though the unbelievable depth and flexibility in it means you can basically make your dwarves do whatever sadistic savagery tickles your fancy. If it’s all a bit daunting, you can follow the sexiness of Captain Duck’s honeyed dutch tones in his tutorial series on getting started in the game. You’ll probably need it.

Canabalt

Yeh, this game is about to end.Why is Canabalt man running? What are the shadowy monstrosities looming in the distance? I’m a twenty-seven year old man with eighteen years of gaming behind me, why can I never get the fucker to go through a window? Why does adding a fourth question break the narrative flow? Another impossibly addictive free game that’s been catapulted into the commercial market, Canabalt was recently ported to the iPhone. Seems bound for success, given Canabalt’s headlong single buttonry is instantly addictive, lasts about thirty seconds before inevitable plummeting death, and can hold you captive for about the length of a moderate bus journey. Hit the button to make your running man jump, to hurtle through and over buildings in twitch-inducing accelerating parkour. Check out the free flash version at Canabalt central.

Probability: 0

Probability 0You’re a man. As you descend into the pit, surrounded and assaulted always by red-eyed fiends, your constantly dwindling chances of escape are displayed at the top of the screen in such cheery idioms as “Probability of seeing your family again” and “Parallel universes in which you still live”. When you hit zero, you die, you swear, you compulsively start again. A nice touch is the ability to start with Talent (moderate abilities but no advancement) and Potential (no starting perks but the potential to level up past the abilities of a Talented character). Though statistics show that if you select Talent you are a dogfucker. Go and fuck your dogs at the official thread at TIGForums.

Warning Forever

Wow, this is a grandaddy of procedural games, with the respectable pedigree of all Hikware shrumps. Three minutes on the clock, infinite randomly-constructed bosses and the ability to piss fire like an demon with herpes. Die and lose time, kill a boss and claw a little back. That’s really all there is to it; it was released in 2003 and didn’t tax the hardware then, but its neon-tinted apocalypse looks like like it was built yesterday. If you’ve got the p300 and DirectX 7 it demands, you can pick it up at the official site.