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The Mass Effect 3 ending: Why it is vital to the future health of games that BioWare not change it

I don’t know what the ending of Mass Effect 3 entails, and I don’t care. I haven’t even played Mass Effect 3 yet. Hell, I’m still working through the first one at the moment. But despite that lack of personal contact with and investment in the issue – in fact because of that - I can already see very clearly that it is imperative that BioWare do not back down over the current fan protests. The content of the existing ending you see, is irrelevant. There are much bigger, potentially wider-reaching and longer-lasting issues at play here, and if BioWare get this wrong, it could be disastrous for games. And if you read on, I shall explain all.

Above: BioWare backing down on this one would be a monstrous punch in the face for games

First and most obvious things first. If BioWare give any ground on Mass Effect 3’s ending, the precedent set for future creativity in video game narrative will be abominable. We’re at a stage of gaming’s development right now when storytelling ambition, technology and delivery techniques are bursting out in a whole stack of exciting new directions. Interactive narrative and creative experimentation are making breakthroughs all the time, and it feels like we’re finally at the dawn of a new era for games as a full-blown medium rather than a mere plaything. Now is absolutely the worst time that a developer of BioWare’s stature and storytelling significance should give away the creative control of one of its most significant, most narratively-driven franchises.

To do so would give the impression of admitting a lack of faith in its own world staff. It would give the impression of admitting that a crowd-sourced ending-by-committee dictated by a bunch of literal amateurs is more worthy than the work of its own creatives. In short, it would take away the power of the writers pushing this stuff forward, and hand it to a bunch of inexperienced outsiders who think they know how it works (and should work) simply because they enjoy consuming what someone else has poured hundreds of hours of effort, ideas, experimentation and creative iteration into creating. And it would set a deadly precedent for creativity.

Above: Creativity is the one on the right. And in the bottom-middle

“Hey, BioWare caved in for their fans, so you can bloody well do the same”. That is the mantra that will spread across the already disgustingly self-entitled online gaming community any time a developer did anything a few fans didn’t like. And lo, a thousand writers will lament, as the years of work, development, training, self-improvement and downright bloody earning their professional positions are cast asunder in the face of the knee-jerk wish-list of a bunch of non-qualified, non-professional ‘fans’.

Let me just point something out here. BioWare’s writers are the same people who have spent the last five years crafting the stories and universe that made Mass Effect’s fans so attached and passionate in the first place. To suddenly claim that these people cannot be trusted to do their job operates on a level of irony and self-serving selective memory that would be funny if it wasn’t so ungrateful.

Above: I couldn't find a proper metaphorical screenshot for ungratefulness, but a rifle butt in the face isn't nice either

But I’m not here to kick the protesters. This is about more than the details of this specific case. And there are more ways in which the outcome of this one is going to be important. Let’s consider the most recent statement on BioWare’s blog from co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka. While Ray has (thankfully) not stated that the game’s current ending will be changed, he has heavily inferred that the approach taken to Mass Effect 3’s DLC might well now be under scrutiny as a result of this protest.

A happy-medium compromise? Tweaking the DLC in order to have it tie up more loose ends (a major criticism of Mass Effect 3’s ending by its detractors) could well smooth things over a little without requiring a complete retcon patch for ME3’s current ending. But here again, I see problems. And again, they come about by way of the limiting the potential of games. 

529 comments

  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    I'll try to be as polite about this as I can: if you haven't seen the ending, shut up and let the people who have complain.Seriously.You can't write an article about something you don't know.
  • ParagonT - March 23, 2012 4:23 p.m.

    http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/16946375.jpg
  • Nova MZ - March 23, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    It comes down to more than having a terrible ending. Bioware have lied to us during the development and ended up giving us an ending that they said they would not do. Why bother telling us something if you don't plan to deliver. Quote from Casey Hudson "It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.....The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.” That's the biggest problem with Bioware on ME3, the lies. I mean, look at this thread on the Bioware Social Network http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10405204/1
  • db1331 - March 23, 2012 10:12 a.m.

    "I don’t know what the ending of Mass Effect 3 entails..." Guess I don't need to read your opinion of the situation then. One of these statements is true in regards to the ending: 1)They completely shat on the entire series in the final 10 minutes with some of the worst writing I've ever seen in any form of media and lied to fans about not giving them all the same ending. 2)They wrote a brilliant plot twist around indoctrination and saved the real ending so they could sell it as DLC. Both of those are unacceptable, although I'm not sure which is worse.
  • TurtleAssasin33 - March 23, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    You know, the fact that he hasn't seen the ending is irrelevant. He has a good point, if we can all bitch and moan when we don't like something in the story of the game, why do the writers have jobs? it isn't our job to be their editor, they are telling a story, and we're actively listening. If you want to hate on ME, go on ahead, but in my opinion Bioware needs to put its foot down, and realize this was their creation, not ours.
  • wicko - March 23, 2012 10:23 a.m.

    You're operating under the assumption that its gamers vs Bioware. What proof do you have that writers on the team don't feel the same way? From my experience, developers don't agree with each other. Happens all the time. Some people have more say than others, and even if an idea is unpopular, it might get pushed through anyway. For all we know, there could be writers at Bioware that *want* to change the ending.
  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:26 a.m.

    What the crap are you talking about? How is it irrelevant? If you want to write about something you have to at LEAST have some idea about what it is. And the endings were so bad because they were confusing, inconclusive and also rather lazy. It doesn't matter if it's "their creation" or not, if something's bad, it's bad, and the paying customers have the right to complain. I don't know if they're actually going to change it or not, but that's besides the point. The point is that they should at least admit that they could've done a better job. Goddamit, you work for Bioware, that means you have some serious talent.And they used that talent very well for the whole duration of the game...what happened in the end, did they ran out?Or maybe the deadlines were choking their creativity?
  • CoruptAI125 - March 23, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    It's amazing how many so called "journalists" come out with opinion pieces when they clearly state in their first paragraph that they don't even know what the root of the problem is. How can you come out against something when you have no first hand knowledge of what it is? Bioware clearly lied about what the ending of this game would entail, and it comes off as a rushed mess. It's a consumers right to complain when a product doesn't live up to the promises made by it's creator. Also good job calling fans egotistical when you write an opinion piece on something you have clearly not researched or experienced first hand just so you can get a piece of the controversy.
  • Craza - March 23, 2012 11:04 a.m.

    I have to agree with you, too.
  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:18 a.m.

    I didn't expect this from GR.An article that begins with "I don't know what I'm talking about, BUT..." is unacceptable for a gaming journalism site (or whatever you want to call it). And I read the article anyway, and it's still rubbish.So they created a wonderful universe, no doubt about that. But does that put them above criticism for messing up one of the most important parts of the game's script? No, no it doesn't, just like people don't excuse shitty performances from star athletes. On the contrary, exactly because they're so good they should've never made that mistake in the first place.
  • Bloodstorm - March 23, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    You're points are meaningless as long as you have not beaten Mass Effect 3. You're just blowing smoke at this point. The ending is bad because basically one writer reached a point and said "dang, how the heck do we wrap this up?" and then the other said "forget about it, just through in a light show of varying colors and pretend the rest of the games never existed." This isn't outrage because it didn't end how we imagined it in our minds, it is outrage because it didn't end with any relevance to everything that had taken place before it. There were so many holes and inconsistencies in the end of the game that it was just unforgivable.
  • Balaska - March 23, 2012 10:23 a.m.

    Mr Houghton, you get it 100%. I have played ME 1,2 and 3 and seen pretty much all possible outcomes. Bioware did fine. Also, if you watch past the credits and actually listen to what is said, you will understand that there is more to Shepards story. Don't like it? Go get a degree in English, become a writer and join a games company, write the stories you want.
  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:32 a.m.

    If you're saying that the ending's "fine" then I'm sorry, but you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in quality between Twilight and The Lord of the Rings. If you want I can illustrate why the ending is so terrible from a writer's point of view, but there are many, MANY posts on the Bioware forums that do that quite well. Hell, some fans even wrote alternate endings, and most of them are much better than the originals, something that destroys the already idiotic "let's see you do better" argument.
  • GreasySTEVE927 - March 23, 2012 10:23 a.m.

    Sorry but you obviously don't know jack about this situation. First of all, you haven't completed any of the Mass Effect games. Secondly, you don't seem to know about the differences between the ending Bioware promised and the one they delivered. http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10405204/1 This thread quotes some of the interviews that were done within a month of the game's release, after the game was finished. They detailed a cut and paste ending that would most certainly not be in ME3. That ending was then in ME3. The ending is poorly written, it abandons the themes of the series, and there are some serious plot holes in it. Why don't you wait until you've actually played it before you open your mouth?
  • majorsuave - March 23, 2012 10:27 a.m.

    "To do so would give the impression of admitting a lack of faith in its own world staff. It would give the impression of admitting that a crowd-sourced ending-by-committee dictated by a bunch of literal amateurs is more worthy than the work of its own creatives." This sums it all. You don't need any more arguments.
  • kylemulderick - March 23, 2012 10:33 a.m.

    Finally, there is someone who understands what having Bioware is having to do is a cataclysmic mistake and will site precident for years to come. This means i can go and complain to Infinty Ward that the Modern Warfare story lines were laden with gaping plotholes and incositencies because to much time was spent making a new MP map. Did no one conisder any of what are being called plotholes to be seeds for future stories coming out via DLC? One of them may have you tasked with locating the Normandy and its crew and finding out why they bolted from the final battle? We all love this series and its characters. But Bioware loves them even more than all of us. These games were more than five years of their lives. They would never do anything they thought would be detrimental to their work. And was everyone seriously expecting a rainbows and puppy dog ending in the end? This was a freaking GALATIC scale war. A war that has NEVER been won by the galaxy. Everyone was praying that the Crucible would be some magic MacGuffin you could wave and make all the Reapers just disappear. And look at your Effective Military Stength bar towards the end. At best, you had a even chance of winning. 50-50. People were going to die, the outcome was going to be survivable at best. Bottom line, the game lived up to everything it should have for me and more. Bioware did a fantastic job all around. I just wish more people couldve been happy with it. Any change or victory in the finale now just feels hollow and undeserving. You think anyone landing on D-Day got to go running to commanding officers and cry that the Nazis werent playing fair and the rules need to be changed
  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    If they made the ending like this just so they could release DLC to fix it then we have a whole other problem on our hands...
  • Ishwarll - March 23, 2012 10:37 a.m.

    "The Matrix sequels were crap, but their crapness wasn’t the biggest tragedy. The biggest tragedy was that a concept so huge and open to almost infinite interpretations was tied to a single linear trilogy following a single narrative path." It's funny how this is what literally happened with the ME3 ending.
  • xMagnumMGx - March 23, 2012 10:40 a.m.

    I agree with this 100% The creation and existence of any game is left in the hands of the creators, writers, concept artist and anyone else involved. While this article is his opinion and none your comments will make him rewrite this article, sit back and look at the increase in user self entitlement. Did these gamers contribute to the over all design? No. Did these gamers help story board? No. Did these gamers help build a fictional universe for people to explore? No. Did they purchase the game? Yes. Okay then they have 100% say in the outcome of the game. I believe that if Bioware backs down and rewrite everything they did for the ended it is going to be a massive punch in the face of the gaming industry all because of opinionated gamers who don't like an ending. Was the experience worth the trip? Opinion based. Was the ending to your liking? Opinion based. Hell while we are at it lets complain to Ken Levin and irrational games to remake Bioshock because the ending sucked. Let's complain to Rockstar to remake GTIV because the ending was lackluster. Do not pressure game designers into rethinking what they themselves put hundreds of hours creating for your enjoyment. It will be a massive step back in creating new and original games. Grow up people and quit venting you idiotic ideals on game designers who already have a hard enough time creating a game that people will find playable.
  • HeavyTank - March 23, 2012 10:48 a.m.

    wat.

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