The Villain’s Journey: Saren Arterius
Poor Saren Arterius.  Antagonist poster-child of the original Mass Effect, the renegade Citadel agent is a cunning and ruthless villain, commanding an army of deadly Geth robots, and whose machinations can lead to the deaths of some of your most valued squad mates; he has everything going for him to foil the plans of any would-be galactic saviors.
It’s unfortunate that his master, the Reaper Sovereign, is one of the most short-sighted and/or poor planners in the existence of the universe.  No, seriously; Saren might be a Turian Spectre bad-ass extraordinaire, but he was probably smacking his head against the wall of Sovereign’s creepy, Lovecraftian interior at the sheer stupidity of his master. We’ll be talking intricacies of the Mass Effect plot at this point, so wiki it slash sign a petition about it if you need to catch up.  Here, let me ruin Mass Effect’s story for you.
Saren, Bad-Ass Spectre, Meets Soveriegn, Bungling Manager: The Reapers are a malignant, all-powerful machine race that wipe out all advanced civilization every couple hundred thousand years.  They do this by activating The Citadel, the freakin’ sweet space station they leave behind for future generations to build their civilizations around (being unable to resist freakin’ sweet space stations, as any intelligent civilization would be).  Since all civilizations build themselves with the freakin’ sweet The Citadel at their center, this makes it pretty easy for The Reapers to come in and wipe them out every time by harnessing The Citadel’s power and just popping into existence right next to it.
But something went wrong this time, and the only Reaper left on this side, Sovereign, has to figure out why.  Enter Saren.  Sovereign brainwashes the Turian (“Indoctrinates,” if you’re hip to the lingo) into being his agent and figuring out what the balls happened and why Sovereign’s buddies aren’t on this side of Dark Space yet snacking on some tasty advanced civilizations.  Turns out an error was introduced into The Citadel, and Saren’s going to have to be the Reaper’s glorified IT guy to patch things up.
Now, assuming that Saren is a logical, cunning, character, as would befit a seasoned soldier of his nature, he would say “I’m a handsome and high-ranking agent of space government.  I’ll just use my clearance to get in there and fix things up for you O machine overlord, just tell me what I’m looking for.”
At this point, Sovereign presumably says: “I’mma do you one better.  You go travel around the galaxy, find this ‘The Conduit’ thing, sounds important, and we’ll figure out what to do from there.”
“But terrifying metal Cthulu,” Saren would say, “all you need is for me to get into The Citadel, open it up for you, and then you just call your buddies.  Look, I even got all these Geth to help us invade!  They never tire, feel no fear, and they’re totally willing to die for you!”
“I don’t pay you to use your disgusting organic brain,” Sovereign would retort.  “How can you be sure that we’ll have the forces to take the Citadel, hm?  We really ought to find out what this Conduit is all about first.”
“But sir,” Saren would say, only getting more and more exasperated, “That is exactly what happens Mass Effect 3.  Cerberus is able to invade the whole station when just one spiteful human ambassador leaves the door open for them.  This will totally work!  Plus, you’re huge, you can just plow through The Citadel’s toughest dreadnoughts!”
Unfortunately for Saren, Sovereign totally mismanaged his most valuable piece on the board, sending him careening through the galaxy, terrorizing folks with his geth army as he goes, and in the process getting Saren’s Spectre status revoked; the one thing that would have gotten Sovereign what he wanted, no hassle, and thereby ending the Mass Effect series at game one.
The path of the villain is often a lonely one, fraught with peril and troublesome heroes at every turn; one wrong move can spell humiliating defeat.  While Saren may be a quantifiable bad-ass, Sovereign is basically an inept middle manager, the equivalent of Michael from “The Office.”  Such an inglorious end for such a rising star in the field of antagonism; but that’s the villain’s journey for you.
Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

The Villain’s Journey: Saren Arterius

Poor Saren Arterius.  Antagonist poster-child of the original Mass Effect, the renegade Citadel agent is a cunning and ruthless villain, commanding an army of deadly Geth robots, and whose machinations can lead to the deaths of some of your most valued squad mates; he has everything going for him to foil the plans of any would-be galactic saviors.

It’s unfortunate that his master, the Reaper Sovereign, is one of the most short-sighted and/or poor planners in the existence of the universe.  No, seriously; Saren might be a Turian Spectre bad-ass extraordinaire, but he was probably smacking his head against the wall of Sovereign’s creepy, Lovecraftian interior at the sheer stupidity of his master. We’ll be talking intricacies of the Mass Effect plot at this point, so wiki it slash sign a petition about it if you need to catch up.  Here, let me ruin Mass Effect’s story for you.

Saren, Bad-Ass Spectre, Meets Soveriegn, Bungling Manager: The Reapers are a malignant, all-powerful machine race that wipe out all advanced civilization every couple hundred thousand years.  They do this by activating The Citadel, the freakin’ sweet space station they leave behind for future generations to build their civilizations around (being unable to resist freakin’ sweet space stations, as any intelligent civilization would be).  Since all civilizations build themselves with the freakin’ sweet The Citadel at their center, this makes it pretty easy for The Reapers to come in and wipe them out every time by harnessing The Citadel’s power and just popping into existence right next to it.

But something went wrong this time, and the only Reaper left on this side, Sovereign, has to figure out why.  Enter Saren.  Sovereign brainwashes the Turian (“Indoctrinates,” if you’re hip to the lingo) into being his agent and figuring out what the balls happened and why Sovereign’s buddies aren’t on this side of Dark Space yet snacking on some tasty advanced civilizations.  Turns out an error was introduced into The Citadel, and Saren’s going to have to be the Reaper’s glorified IT guy to patch things up.

Now, assuming that Saren is a logical, cunning, character, as would befit a seasoned soldier of his nature, he would say “I’m a handsome and high-ranking agent of space government.  I’ll just use my clearance to get in there and fix things up for you O machine overlord, just tell me what I’m looking for.”

At this point, Sovereign presumably says: “I’mma do you one better.  You go travel around the galaxy, find this ‘The Conduit’ thing, sounds important, and we’ll figure out what to do from there.”

“But terrifying metal Cthulu,” Saren would say, “all you need is for me to get into The Citadel, open it up for you, and then you just call your buddies.  Look, I even got all these Geth to help us invade!  They never tire, feel no fear, and they’re totally willing to die for you!”

“I don’t pay you to use your disgusting organic brain,” Sovereign would retort.  “How can you be sure that we’ll have the forces to take the Citadel, hm?  We really ought to find out what this Conduit is all about first.”

“But sir,” Saren would say, only getting more and more exasperated, “That is exactly what happens Mass Effect 3.  Cerberus is able to invade the whole station when just one spiteful human ambassador leaves the door open for them.  This will totally work!  Plus, you’re huge, you can just plow through The Citadel’s toughest dreadnoughts!”

Unfortunately for Saren, Sovereign totally mismanaged his most valuable piece on the board, sending him careening through the galaxy, terrorizing folks with his geth army as he goes, and in the process getting Saren’s Spectre status revoked; the one thing that would have gotten Sovereign what he wanted, no hassle, and thereby ending the Mass Effect series at game one.

The path of the villain is often a lonely one, fraught with peril and troublesome heroes at every turn; one wrong move can spell humiliating defeat.  While Saren may be a quantifiable bad-ass, Sovereign is basically an inept middle manager, the equivalent of Michael from “The Office.”  Such an inglorious end for such a rising star in the field of antagonism; but that’s the villain’s journey for you.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Beyond The Voice - Kratos Soothes You With Sweet Jazz
Anyone who’s played the visceral and gratuitous God of War series is familiar with the enraged screams of series anti-hero Kratos. Less “voice acting” per se and more like professional, blood-curdling yells? Possibly, but either way you have to admire the talent behind it, and in this case, the man behind Kratos is actor TC Carson.  And in addition to voicing one of the most brutal characters in video games, he also has a lovely singing voice. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
TC Carson is a veteran of both stage and screen. He’s done a wide variety of voice-overs, been a recent guest star on “The Mentalist,” performed onstage in musicals, and been killed off in Final Destination 2, to name a few highlights. For those of us most familiar with him as Kratos though, his usual speaking voice might not be very familiar. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the “real” Kratos, one voice at a time.
In the anime Afro Samurai and accompanying video game adaptation, TC plays Afro’s teacher, Sword Master. The voice he uses here is pretty much unchanged from the Kratos voice we know so well.
Moving on, we now have TC as the voice of Jedi Master Mace Windu in the animated and CG versions of The Clone Wars. Notice how TC has a pattern of voicing bad-ass warrior types?  The voice he uses for Mace still has traces of the hard-edged fighting type that is Kratos, but is closer to Mr. Carson’s actual voice.
While TC is best known in gaming culture as Kratos, the God of War games were not his first foray into video game voice work. Here he is as the character Voodoo Master in Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat for PS2 and Xbox. 
The Voodoo Master has a much smoother sound to him than say, the furious Kratos, indicating the versatility of TC’s voice. A voice he puts to good use in his singing career. That’s right. Kratos  always just wanted to be a singer. TC Carson was one of the regular cast members on the 90’s FOX Show Living Single where he played the character Kyle Barker, who sang multiple times throughout the series. So without further ado, Kratos will now soothe you with sweet jazz.
Now I’m not one to doubt the power of a good singing voice, but how does TC’s character know he’s impressing the ladies without all the flashing X’s and squares?
Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Beyond The Voice - Kratos Soothes You With Sweet Jazz

Anyone who’s played the visceral and gratuitous God of War series is familiar with the enraged screams of series anti-hero Kratos. Less “voice acting” per se and more like professional, blood-curdling yells? Possibly, but either way you have to admire the talent behind it, and in this case, the man behind Kratos is actor TC Carson.  And in addition to voicing one of the most brutal characters in video games, he also has a lovely singing voice. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

TC Carson is a veteran of both stage and screen. He’s done a wide variety of voice-overs, been a recent guest star on “The Mentalist,” performed onstage in musicals, and been killed off in Final Destination 2, to name a few highlights. For those of us most familiar with him as Kratos though, his usual speaking voice might not be very familiar. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the “real” Kratos, one voice at a time.

In the anime Afro Samurai and accompanying video game adaptation, TC plays Afro’s teacher, Sword Master. The voice he uses here is pretty much unchanged from the Kratos voice we know so well.

Moving on, we now have TC as the voice of Jedi Master Mace Windu in the animated and CG versions of The Clone Wars. Notice how TC has a pattern of voicing bad-ass warrior types?  The voice he uses for Mace still has traces of the hard-edged fighting type that is Kratos, but is closer to Mr. Carson’s actual voice.

While TC is best known in gaming culture as Kratos, the God of War games were not his first foray into video game voice work. Here he is as the character Voodoo Master in Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat for PS2 and Xbox. 

The Voodoo Master has a much smoother sound to him than say, the furious Kratos, indicating the versatility of TC’s voice. A voice he puts to good use in his singing career. That’s right. Kratos  always just wanted to be a singer. TC Carson was one of the regular cast members on the 90’s FOX Show Living Single where he played the character Kyle Barker, who sang multiple times throughout the series. So without further ado, Kratos will now soothe you with sweet jazz.

Now I’m not one to doubt the power of a good singing voice, but how does TC’s character know he’s impressing the ladies without all the flashing X’s and squares?

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Ron Paul’s 8-bit Adventure
When I think of classic 8-bit video game characters, I can safely say I’d never consider a Texas-born, libertarian politician. The joke’s on me it seems, as Ron Paul will be hopping and bopping with the best of them soon enough.Titled Ron Paul: Road to REVOlution, the game will feature levels based on the 50 US states and “13 boss fights representing each branch of the Federal Reserve.” The side-scrolling puzzle/platformer will also have an original soundtrack and unlockable bonus content.You can check out the game’s official Kickstarter page (natch) here. As of this writing the game’s goal of $5,000 has already been met, and the game’s developer, who’s also a co-founder of ronpaulswag.com, is set to release it in the coming months for free on the web. Subsequent versions for mobile devices as well as Xbox Live Indie Games are planned for the future as well.Note: All screenshots are taken from the game’s Kickstarter page and represent an alpha build of the game.Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Ron Paul’s 8-bit Adventure

When I think of classic 8-bit video game characters, I can safely say I’d never consider a Texas-born, libertarian politician. The joke’s on me it seems, as Ron Paul will be hopping and bopping with the best of them soon enough.

Titled Ron Paul: Road to REVOlution, the game will feature levels based on the 50 US states and “13 boss fights representing each branch of the Federal Reserve.” The side-scrolling puzzle/platformer will also have an original soundtrack and unlockable bonus content.

You can check out the game’s official Kickstarter page (natch) here. As of this writing the game’s goal of $5,000 has already been met, and the game’s developer, who’s also a co-founder of ronpaulswag.com, is set to release it in the coming months for free on the web. Subsequent versions for mobile devices as well as Xbox Live Indie Games are planned for the future as well.

Note: All screenshots are taken from the game’s Kickstarter page and represent an alpha build of the game.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

"My Little Pony" Arrives At Helgen… Hundreds Dead

Ohhhh you crazy Skyrim modders you.

This adorably destructive mod for the PC version of Skyrim comes courtesy of modder “zdzichorowerzysta” and can be downloaded from the Skyrim Nexus here, along with a host of other mods.

Interested in making your own custom creations in the land of Skyrim? You can find out more on modding with the Skyrim Creation Kit at its official wiki page.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

World of Warcraft Gives Seniors +1 Intellect
In a recent study, North Carolina State University’s Gains Through Gaming Lab, Blizzard’s MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft has another bullet point it can put on the back of its box: it can help improve the mental abilities of senior citizens.
Seniors tested over a two-week period showed greater improvements in the areas of spatial ability, memory, and how well they could focus their attention as compared to those seniors in the control group who did not play World of Warcraft. Study author Anne McLaughlin describes just why they decided to drop seniors into the land of Azeroth:"We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits - it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations."Many retirement communities have scooped up Wiis and similar gaming devices in the past to keep their members engaged and active. Is WoW far behind? I know Blizzard wouldn’t complain with the new subscription numbers.Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

World of Warcraft Gives Seniors +1 Intellect

In a recent study, North Carolina State University’s Gains Through Gaming Lab, Blizzard’s MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft has another bullet point it can put on the back of its box: it can help improve the mental abilities of senior citizens.


Seniors tested over a two-week period showed greater improvements in the areas of spatial ability, memory, and how well they could focus their attention as compared to those seniors in the control group who did not play World of Warcraft. Study author Anne McLaughlin describes just why they decided to drop seniors into the land of Azeroth:

"We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits - it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations."

Many retirement communities have scooped up Wiis and similar gaming devices in the past to keep their members engaged and active. Is WoW far behind? I know Blizzard wouldn’t complain with the new subscription numbers.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Frozen Synapse’s New Ending: “We Don’t Care If You Like It” *Spoilers

PC & iOS game Frozen Synapse recently got a new update…. changing the game’s ending.

Was this the result of fan-pressure put on the game’s developer, Mode 7? Nope. As explained by Paul Taylor, a Mode 7 co-founder:

"It is an experiment: I wanted to know how this felt. Honestly, it felt like vandalizing my own work, which was interesting.

Taylor also said that this is not meant as a comment on Bioware or the way they’re handling the reaction of some of their fans to Mass Effect 3’s ending.

Among other things, the new ending commends the player for being clever and then segues into a crudely drawn picture of a pony and a dinosaur wearing top hats with the caption “This is the ending to a computer game… we don’t care if you like it…”

The original ending can be found posted below for comparison. Spoiler warnings, of course.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Baldur’s Gate III Overhaul Games’ Goal
As we reported last week, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, a remake of PC classics Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, is being developed in cooperation with Overhaul Games, a studio made up of several veterans of Bioware, the original studio behind the revered RPG franchise.What’s next in store for Overhaul after this project is done? If company COO Cameron Tofer has his way, Baldur’s Gate III of course!“Baldur’s Gate III has been our long-term goal. We have a lot of things to put in place before such a project can be launched. So currently there is no such project but that’s the one we want to do. Our thoughts have been that Enhanced Edition for [Baldur’s Gate] and [Baldur’s Gate II] just make sense before there’s any Baldur’s Gate III.”And how would they go about getting the money together for such an undertaking? Say it with me now… Kickstarter.“We’re totally thinking Kickstarter… It just makes so much sense and solves so many problems. I think what Brain [Fargo] is doing with Wasteland is very interesting.”It sounds like the future of the franchise will hinge first and foremost on whether or not the Enhanced Edition meets sales expectations upon its release, so if you’re eager to see a new adventure along The Sword Coast, the best thing you can do for Overhaul right now is to pick up a copy of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition when it comes out.Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Baldur’s Gate III Overhaul Games’ Goal

As we reported last week, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, a remake of PC classics Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, is being developed in cooperation with Overhaul Games, a studio made up of several veterans of Bioware, the original studio behind the revered RPG franchise.

What’s next in store for Overhaul after this project is done? If company COO Cameron Tofer has his way, Baldur’s Gate III of course!

Baldur’s Gate III has been our long-term goal. We have a lot of things to put in place before such a project can be launched. So currently there is no such project but that’s the one we want to do. Our thoughts have been that Enhanced Edition for [Baldur’s Gate] and [Baldur’s Gate II] just make sense before there’s any Baldur’s Gate III.”

And how would they go about getting the money together for such an undertaking? Say it with me now… Kickstarter.

“We’re totally thinking Kickstarter… It just makes so much sense and solves so many problems. I think what Brain [Fargo] is doing with Wasteland is very interesting.”

It sounds like the future of the franchise will hinge first and foremost on whether or not the Enhanced Edition meets sales expectations upon its release, so if you’re eager to see a new adventure along The Sword Coast, the best thing you can do for Overhaul right now is to pick up a copy of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition when it comes out.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Make The Impossible Easy With The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device
Start your wallets, this replica Portal Gun enters the Think Geek Store this May. While the gun was first announced earlier this year, details were a bit scarce at the time, but now it’s officially coming.  You’ve surely seen different home-made replicas of the infamous quantum tunneling device from Portal floating around the internet, but this represents an officially licensed Portal product, limited to a 5,000 unit quantity worldwide. At $140 and developed by NECA, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, this is sure to be a collector’s item.You can register at ThinkGeek’s website for an email notification as soon as the gun goes on sale. After that, the fastest buyers are the ones who get the goods.Insert obligatory Portal quote here.Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel

Make The Impossible Easy With The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device

Start your wallets, this replica Portal Gun enters the Think Geek Store this May. While the gun was first announced earlier this year, details were a bit scarce at the time, but now it’s officially coming.  You’ve surely seen different home-made replicas of the infamous quantum tunneling device from Portal floating around the internet, but this represents an officially licensed Portal product, limited to a 5,000 unit quantity worldwide. At $140 and developed by NECA, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, this is sure to be a collector’s item.

You can register at ThinkGeek’s website for an email notification as soon as the gun goes on sale. After that, the fastest buyers are the ones who get the goods.

Insert obligatory Portal quote here.

Ellis Stoneback // Super PolyPixel