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Evening Reading: Pick Up the Pace

by Garnett Lee, Feb 01, 2010 6:00pm PST

Mass Effect 2 continued its consumption of my gaming time over the weekend. I also sneaked in a little co-op Halo ODST. Both games left me thinking about the challenges in pacing a game experience. In the case of Mass Effect 2, after twenty plus hours of devouring the story I hit an awkward decision point. I could keep on that road and advance to what appears to be the end game (or at the very least close to it), or I could leave that whole pressing save the galaxy thing on hold while I fiddled around collecting and improving my crew and handling other random matters that crop up around the systems.

On the one hand, staying on course and moving forward maintains the pace that keeps the story engaging for me. To do so, though, felt like it would only lead to a hollow victory at best. For the designer, everything left in the game to give the player freedom also opens the window of unpredictability when if comes to how and when they'll arrive at critical path milestones. I arrived at this one in Mass Effect 2 well before I'd have liked to given the amount of support material still available. I needed, and in fact was craving, the next part by the time it arrived, though.

Halo ODST presented a different sort of pacing challenge. First, playing with a partner who'd already completed the missions it was easy to gloss by important moments. While a degree of this can be attributed to familiarity, there's also an argument to be made that those high points aren't that high if they don't really catch your attention after the first time. I mean, it's not like I put on Blade Runnner and then fast forward through the whole thing. The other pacing issue in ODST comes from a lack of being able to sense how I was progressing in the game. There's an intentional degree of obfuscation to simulate some of the disorientation the drop troopers would experience. Even allowing for that, there's a lack of time and place that throws off my understanding of how I'm participating in the events at any given moment.

The time for the following events was today and the place was, of course, Shacknews:

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