Click here to read part 3 of this series
******** Spoiler Alert *********
How does "artistic vision" justify all the problems with the ending in Mass Effect 3? After fighting so hard to stay alive while making the most heroic choices, why did BioWare force Shepard to kill his own allies, kill friends, possibly murder countless other innocents, destroy mass relay galactic travel, and obliterate the galactic economy, all without opposing the malevolent being of light? Every current choice is flawed in multiple ways. Simple clarification can't fix the ending options to Mass Effect 3.
It appears that BioWare decided they wanted a sad ending to the Mass Effect trilogy, and they were committed to achieving it at any cost even if it compromised the integrity of the narrative and lore of the series.
Another possibility is that EA forced BioWare to chop the game into pieces, and provide an intentionally incomplete unsatisfying ending to sell the real ending latter. This would explain why the current ending was allegedly not peer reviewed like the rest of the game (http://www.gameranx.com/updates/id/...-writer-allegedly-slams-controversial-ending/). It would also explain the message that appears at the end of the Mass Effect 3 credits stating: "Commander Shepard has become a legend by ending the Reaper threat. Now you can continue to build that legend through further gameplay and downloadable content."
Everyone one the three choices has numerous senseless elements. This is the epitome of senseless forced tragedy for dramatic effect; it's, at best, the result of BioWare running out of time to finish the game. At worst, it was a botched attempt to sell the real ending of a popular game. If EA hadn't forced BioWare to add multiplayer late in the development cycle, maybe they would have had the time to think this through. They could have added multiplayer at a later date, after making the single player memorable from beginning to end. Instead of admitting that the ending needs more polish and additional distinct choices and dialog, EA and BioWare are painting themselves as victims of angry fans forced to compromise their artistic integrity. After one month of almost no meaningful communication with fans, BioWare released statements insinuating that fans are just not smart enough to understand their artistic vision.
For me, the problems with the ending were the last straw in a long line of disappointments, broken promises, and unethical actions performed by EA. The ending is broken, incomplete, nonsensical and insulting to me as an avid fan of the series. It kills all my motivation to replay the series as a whole, because it renders all of my effort in five complete playthroughs from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2 and two complete playthroughs including Mass Effect 3 meaningless. This was an investment of hundreds of hours spanning five years and over $250 for the trilogy including all DLC.
I've been gaming for the past 15 years and have purchased over 150 games. Never before have I felt the need complain about a game on blogs and forums. If don't like a game, I just move on; there are plenty of other good games available to keep me busy. But I love Mass Effect as a series, and hate to see it end so poorly.
The current situation with Mass Effect 3 (including several other games currently in the market) is an opportunity for us to unite as a gaming community to demand the respect we deserve from the industry.
Why have the problems with Mass Effect 3 generated so much negative publicity for EA and BioWare? Just look at this excerpt from a Game Informer a January 10, 2012 interview of Casey Hudson (Director) by Phil Kollar (http://www.gameinformer.com/b/featu...fdsafdhudson-interviewae.aspx?PostPageIndex=2):
Phil: "With the ending in Mass Effect 2, there were so many different variables and possibilities for the outcome and what could happen. As players reached the end, they started comparing notes and trying to figure out how it worked. A few months after it came out, we ran a chart in the magazine that showed the layout of how to get the different endings and how things happened. Is that same type of complexity built into the ending of Mass Effect 3?"
Casey: "Yeah, and I'd say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don't have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we're taking into account so many decisions that you've made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. 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."
Casey continues: "It's more like there are some really obvious things that are different and then lots and lots of smaller things, lots of things about who lives and who dies, civilizations that rose and fell, all the way down to individual characters. That becomes the state of where you left your galaxy. The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them. It would be interesting to see if somebody could put together a chart for that. Even with Mass Effect 2's..."
Compare those statements to this video, which contains a side by side comparison of the final scenes in Mass Effect 3 from the activation of the crucible to the moment when the blast hits the fleeing Normandy, and the problems start become evident.
How can BioWare justify these statements? Mass Effect 3 does indeed have only three ending choices that can be described as endings A, B, and C with only a small number of variables.
Looking at just two of BioWare's most prominent advertising points that appear in Majorie Stephens' recent article in the Better Business Bureau about Mass Effect 3 (http://www.bbb.org/blog/2012/04/mas...-effect-on-its-consumers-for-better-or-worse/):
"Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome".
"Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios."
These statements illustrate the implied contract that EA and BioWare provided to customers buying Mass Effect 3; the current ending doesn't even come close to meeting that criteria. Majorie went on to say, "The issue at stake here is, did Bio Ware falsely advertise? Technically, yes, they did."
As I stated earlier, I don't expect to have an infinite number of ending choices; however, at least three or four completely distinct endings are necessary to meet customer's expectations based on EA's advertising and BioWare's statements.
I believe what we are witnessing in the case Mass Effect 3 and several other recent games by other publishers are the growing pains of a relatively young industry trying to find a balance between the expectations of consumers and how businesses respond to those expectations. This is not the first time this has happened in a new industry, and it won't be the last. It took Ralph Nader's consumer rights movement in the 1960's to make cars as safe as they are today. This is a quote from his Wikipedia article: "Nader came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers in general, and most famously the Chevrolet Corvair. In 1999, an NYU panel of journalists ranked Unsafe at Any Speed 38th among the top 100 pieces of journalism of the 20th century." Thanks to Mr. Nader and many others like him, we now have a better chance of surviving a car crash. It took many decades for the automobile industry to mature. In 1965, Ralph was considered a radical; now he is a role model for consumer protection.
Obliviously, fixing game problems is not as important as car safety but we shouldn't lower our consumer standards just because games are entertainment products. If any company wants to be taken seriously, they need to take all the responsibilities of that role. Good customer service and quality shouldn't be seen as optional items in the gaming industry.
Considering that it took about 65 years, from the early 1900's to Nader's groundbreaking book which kicked off the consumer protection movement for the car industry. What is happening in the gaming industry today is more rapid. "In 1971, Computer Space, created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was the first commercially sold, coin-operated video game", as stated in Wikipedia's video game article; this was only 41 years ago. If the gaming community movements to demand changes in Mass Effect 3 and to hold EA accountable for their questionable business practices are successful; all gamers will eventually benefit from increased transparency and accountability in the industry. These are good things for both hard working honest companies and consumers; it's not so good for companies with unethical business practices.
BioWare continuously claims to humbly listen to their fans. What fans are they really talking about? Are they talking about the gaming industry reporters that gave them perfect review scores for Mass Effect 3? It is shameful that EA and their supporters are working so hard to divide us as gamers, to prevent us from using mass boycotts as a way obtain the rights we deserve as consumers.
Having purchased the Mass Effect 3 Digital Deluxe Edition through Origin for $80 before taxes, I can't return it for a refund. This limitation needs to be removed. Other purchasing options allow customers to return Mass Effect 3, why not Origin's digital downloads? I personally don't want to demand a refund for my digital copy of Mass Effect 3 at this time, because there's still a chance that BioWare will pleasantly surprise us with the Extended Cut DLC this summer. Regardless, customers should be able to get full refunds for digital downloads from Origin as easily as any other product.
Not surprisingly, EA recently won the "Worst Company in America" award (http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/04/04/ea-is-the-worst-company-in-america-now-what/2/).
In his Forbes article titled "EA is the Worst Company in America, Now What?" Paul Tassi wrote: "I believe EA is a destructive force in the industry as their goal isn't to make gaming more accessible and respected as a medium. How can you argue that video games are art, when pieces of the story are cleaved out to be sold separately? This is why the titans of the gaming industry like EA are passionately hated, while movie studios and TV networks don't draw nearly as much ire. 3D price gouging seems downright generous when compared to the tricks companies like EA are using to wring more money out of consumers."
The situation with Mass Effect 3 is very disappointing to me, because I admired BioWare in the past. EA's bad business practices must be opposed for the good of the gaming industry. We as gamers need to unite to show EA that they need to correct their course. It's still not too late for them. I still have hope.
EA should stop their anti-trust business practices; buying smaller companies for the sake of eliminating completion isn't ethical and hurts innovation and consumer choice. EA would benefit by drastically cutting their PR and marketing budgets and giving that money to their current development studios. This will allow their studios like BioWare, to stop trying to hide their problems and actually fix them. This will immediately begin to improve their reputation. I hope that EA will wake up before it's too late. As a publicly traded company, there's only so much bad news their investors will tolerate before selling off their stocks. If boycotting EA is the only way to get their attention, then we as consumers need to have the self-discipline to stop buying their products. Signing petitions is simply not enough.
BioWare still has a chance to own up to their mistakes, the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3 is an opportunity to shine. I hope they don't waste it because of the prideful nature of some employees. I hope they learn to value the opinions of their customers more than those of sycophantic game journalist.
Eventually, interactive entertainment will be fully customizable to satisfy the desires of the consumer. Companies that can achieve leveraging technology to provide optimal customization will thrive; companies that don't adopt this mindset will go out of business. Modern role playing game series like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, and The Witcher already provide varying levels of this narrative, visual, and gameplay customization through dialog choices, character skill trees, and actions. In the near future, we look back at the controversy created by the Mass Effect 3 ending and wonder how anyone could have argued against improved customization to broaden the appeal of an entertainment product.
I love Mass Effect and want it to be remembered in the best possible way. I want it to have replay value as a complete series, because it was the best science fiction interactive entertainment series in the market. There is nothing wrong with improving a product. BioWare doesn't just owe it to fans to change Mass Effect 3; they also owe it to themselves, after all the hard work they have put in to the series.
Mass Effect 3's Ending, EA, BioWare and Consumer Rights (4 of 4)
Blog entry posted by K. R. Hamilton, Apr 20, 2012.
About the Author
As a gamer for the past 15 years, I've seen a lot of changes in the industry; many of them are detrimental to our rights as consumers. There's a great opportunity for unity among gamers of all types to achieve lasting changes that will protect our rights. Hold the Line is a beacon of light that will help make future games better, by uniting gamers and demanding honesty and respect from the gaming industry.