Terrorists strike. Governments react. Aid agencies respond. Groups claim responsibility, make political demands. Governments respond to these demands, organise military response. Copycats attempt to emulate the attack. Prevention strategies are suggest. Governments complain about the price tag.  Some bastard profiteers off the whole thing.

Although I could be describing the news cycle for a great many of the 21st century’s tragedies, I am actually describing the “Vallum Blast”, which involved a ship (accelerated to hyper relativistic speeds) which crashed into a Turian city, killing hundreds.  The attack was orchestrated by a group of separatists, frustrated with the unchanging nature of the Hierarchy’s governance. The Hierarchy has chosen not a adopt new shielding technology for its cities, citing fears that such a move would elevate the risks for poorer areas which couldn’t afford shielding. Cynics claim that the Hierarchy is scared by the cost of the kinetic barrier technology.  A young survivor was discovered in the wreckage a few days after the blast, malnourished in the extreme.  A pair of Turian doctors have been arrested for harvesting organs from the blast’s victims.

Game has a great concept art. Also, HD Coruscant. IGN.Com image lifted for class.

As many of you may know this story has unfolded over the last two weeks through Mass Effect 2’s menu screen, with bi-daily text updates delivered via the laptop on the side.  Every time I load up Mass Effect, I’m greeted by a new development in the blast that’s happened independently of my play through of the game.  The game world is alive and without my interaction the universes narrative is moving forward.  With only a few hundred words every few days, Bioware has accomplished the independent world that Oblivion tried so hard to create.  It’s a simple solution and an inelegant one. It requires me to spend time on the main menu instead of getting into the game, which is hardly ideal. Why couldn’t his text be displayed during say, the loading screen? Or could it have been recorded and integrated into the Illium PA, whose news stories looped for me a long time ago.  Any implementation that didn’t force me to sacrifice my immersion to immerse myself in the narrative is superior really.

It’s also cool that it only exists for a limited time. Once the news story cycles out of the game, it’s gone forever. Much like a real thing.

I imagine that people would’ve got much the same feeling from the Mark Metzer alternate reality game for Bioshock 2, which culminates in-game in a really satisfying way. The same might also be cool in Mass Effect, where DLC adds in the ability for Shepard to travel to Vallum and stop the organ traders or prevent a copycat attack.

I imagine this is the appeal of in-character Twitter feeds, although having that content located within Twitter is too much of a stretch for me and doesn’t do much for my immersion.

Cool things.