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Anecdotal Interface Fail

The original Mass Effect had massive interface issues. Pretty much every screen in that game had at least one glaring fatal flaw, something that these fantastic articles go into in-depth.

Mass Effect 2 fares better in this regard, though its complete lack of an inventory mitigates the need for UI significantly, which in turn makes it harder to screw up as royally as the first game.

Nonetheless, the game still managed at least one epic interface fail, and it's enough of a head scratcher that I felt obligated to share it here.

Mission Incomprehensible

One of Mass Effect 2's (mostly excellent) side missions involves stopping a couple of missiles from being launched, in order to save a colony.

Unfortunately, it turns out that you will only be able to stop one missile, and you must choose between saving the living area or the industrial area. If you save the living area, you will save thousands of lives, but they will need to be evacuated since the colony will no longer be able to sustain itself. If you save the industrial area, the colonists will die, but the colony will remain viable and can be resettled in no time.

Clearly, one of these is the "Renegade" choice and the other the "Paragon," and you can safely assume that the choice you make will have some sort of impact in Mass Effect 3 (though if the "impact" of the first game's choices on Mass Effect 2 is any indication, then all you'll get is a strongly worded e-mail).

Regardless, it's a fun mission, and having to make a big decision at the end is cool; what's not cool is the UI they cooked up to let you make that decision.

Here's how it works: you're presented with a typical list of two different choices Save the Colony or Save the Factories. It's a typical list, where you can use the D-pad to highlight one choice or the other. When you highlight a choice, the text on the right changes to explain the choice more closely, just in case you're not sure which one to highlight in order to get your desired result.

So that's pretty easy right? What could go wrong?

So, I highlighted the Save the Colony option, and hit A to confirm it.

Imagine my surprise when the mission summary told me that I had chosen to save the factories, sacrificing thousands of colonists.

Since that hadn't been my intention, I replayed the mission just so I could look at that screen again and try to figure out what I'd done wrong. I beat the mission, got to the choice, and everything was exactly as I'd thought, I'd even highlighted the correct choice in the list.

And then I glanced down at the context-sensitive buttons at the bottom of the screen, which you would expect to say something like:

A. Confirm
B. Cancel

Instead, the button prompt says this:

A. Save the Factories
B. Save the Colony

In other words, that list, the one where you can highlight either Save the Factories or Save the Colony? Yeah, it serves no purpose, and in fact, if you highlight a choice and then hit A to confirm it, like you would anywhere else in the game, you will choose to kill the colonists every time.

Wow. Just... wow.

Clearly they had no idea how they wanted to present this choice, and someone probably decided to change it at the last minute, instead bungling the whole thing. This is why it pays to have someone actually design the UI, Bioware.

I'm just saying.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Goddamnit! What are you doing? Now I want to play it even more!

    But anyway, it’s a great example you found there. It is particularly hilarious because so many lifes seem to depend on the decision.

    And thanks for pimping my stuff. I’ve been reding through your articles on ME2 and they are excellent! The really make me want to play it. Must, resist… need to… reduce… backlog… ;)

  2. Thanks!

    I think I have one more Mass Effect 2 post left in me before I move on to other things.

    I’ll be curious to see what you think of the game when you do get around to it ;)

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