I’ve been following the controversy* around Mass Effect 3 for the last couple of days. While I haven’t got around to play the game itself, I felt pretty much obliged to read about the game’s finale.
Apparently, brave, brave Commander Shepard jumps into a particle beam and disintegrates. Then - quite literally - everything explodes, if I’m not mistaken killing either everyone in the universe or almost everyone, effectively scaring off the alien ‘Reapers’ or killing them as well. But yay! If you made the right decisions, Commander Shepard still lives. Fate of the galaxy is not totally clear, brave new future, it’s a wrap. End of spoilers.
This might be pretty depressing stuff for longtime fans of the series, but hey: it’s Bioware’s game, right? Commander “Space Jesus” Shepard - sort of - saves the day by sacrificing himself, the threat is dispelled and there’s even room for a sequel. This is where it gets interesting, quite a lot of players have started a petition to alter the ending, proposing some more upbeat closure to this particular story. Immediately, Bethesda’s Fallout 3 came to mind. The abrupt ending of the game, or… definitive ending to be more precise, did not allow the player to continue his/her adventures in the environment he/she preserved/ruined. Bethesda fixed this in the Broken Steel-update, admitting the previous ending was poorly chosen. Changing the ending of a game via an update is thus not unheard of, although the content of Broken Steel - which chronologically takes place after the events of Fallout 3 - hints that this was planned from the beginning. It could very well be that Commander Shepard’s will be continued soon through additional downloadable content. There are also complaints about ‘plot holes’ in Mass Effect 3’s ending. In theory, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed in future DLC, be it through ‘flashback missions’ or an additional storyline.
The term ’gamer entitlement’ (or, more bluntly ‘spoiled gamer syndrome’) is being thrown around an awful lot. Until now, I’ve mostly encountered the ’entitlement’ argument in relation to systems like the App Store. For example: Gamers asking for free updates or levels, for a game they spent €0,79 on. If the studio is unwilling, or unable, to provide the gamer with this material, there’s always another (free) app to download. In this sense, smaller developers are at a severe disadvantage compared to bigger studios with deeper pockets.
I encountered something similar - to an extent - on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. At the time of writing, the game is missing some features that are present in other MMO’s. For example, the game could use a practical ‘dungeon finder’, the endgame content is a bit lean, etc. Reactions include “I hit level 50 after a week, and now I’m bored! WHY ARE YOU FORCING ME TO QUIT!?” MMO-forums are notoriously vitriolic, to - and sometimes probably far, far beyond - the point of travesty, but there are (some) ‘extenuating circumstances’. MMO’s require a subscription fee to play, in that sense players might feel more ‘entitled’ to being served. Of course, there’s also the factor of ‘realistic demands’, which one of the first things to be thrown out of the window in an internet environment.
Still, the Mass Effect case seems to differ a bit, because player’s aren’t asking for purely quantitative additions (like in the App Store), or quantitative and qualitative additions (like SWTOR), but it touches the narrative (artistic) merits of the game. To be fair: It doesn’t help that Bioware itself announced ‘very intricate endings’, and fans feel Bioware failed to deliver.
The - hilariously titled - ‘Retake Mass Effect’ can complain about the delivery of the plot, but I feel when it tries the change the ending itself into something happy, it’s going a ‘bridge too far’. Players might have sunk hundreds of hours in this game, and they get something they didn’t expect. But: Mass Effect is a series that has revolved around genocide on a galactic scale since the beginning, and now people are expecting an ending involving unicorns and rainbows?
‘Retake Mass Effect’ seems to have more in common with fans raging at the ending of The Sopranos. People really feel bad for what happened in Mass Effect 3, and I think that’s really a testament to Bioware’s ability to craft an environment, universe and saga players can invest in and care about. Still, it is Biowares and if they decide to let something bad happen to it, it is their artistic right. Fans may be anxious about the Mass Effect universe, but this is not the end of the franchise if only from a business perspective.
There’s certainly hope for disappointed fans (if not their wallets), this is probably not the last instalment in the series. Also, it’s not a question ‘if’ but ‘when’ new DLC will arrive. The handling of these expansions is now a bit of a sensitive matter. Knowing a bit about the forums - and (MMO)RPG-fans in general - any announcement of DLC that has to do anything with the end will also be met with fierce criticism (“What!? You listened to us? HOW DARE YOU LISTEN TO US!!??). Bioware is in a situation where it can’t do much good, either way.
*If controversy is indeed the best word for a very vocal, small minority.
Someone contacted me, I’ve moved the question so the page won’t clutter.
Hi Stefan - I mean this in the best possible way: Your comments on Mass effect is a joke, Right? If not: it really puzzles me how you can write a review of something you haven’t played - oh, and btw - you got the ending wrong - there is one and only one outcome of the game … when BioWare call it the end - they really mean it - the Mass effect universe dies and Shepard dies no matter your choices through the game.
- Hi, ehrm… Anonymous thanks for taking the time to react,
The comments on Mass Effect are certainly not a joke. It is not a ‘review’ of the ending (nor is it meant to be), but I’ve thought about the principle of trying to ‘coerce’ (by lack of a better word) a videogame company to change the ending of what is, essentially, their universe.
It appears there are
A) some ‘formalist’ complaints about the ending, making it very unclear ‘what exactly happens’. Some of the events are not properly explained. The problem with this, is that it might be Bioware leaving some laces untied on purpose. Making people more interested in downloading DLC in which these loose ends are tied up. I ‘ve seen some hints to a DLC episode called ‘The Truth’, which sort of hints towards this approach. In a sense Bioware has done something comparable with Dragon Age 2, using an ‘unreliable story teller’ who may (or may not) be truthful in telling what has happened.
B) Complaints about the nature of the ending, i.e. the general ‘bleakness’ of everything exploding. While I can certainly understand the dismay of players who have spent literally hundreds of hours with the crew of the Normandy, Bioware is not obliged to have the Normandy crew save everything and fly off into one the many sunsets in the galaxy.
My main problem with the ending would be if Bioware charges players money for what’s supposed to be the ‘real ending’ of their game though…
I’m not sure the term ‘entitlement’ that’s widely being put on the petition is entirely fair though.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of what I meant with the blog post. If you have any more reactions, questions or remarks, don’t hesitate to ask!
- stiif posted this