Saturday, March 24, 2012

What was Bioware thinking?

A few days ago I cracked a Mass Effect 3 joke in a video, and I did that without ever touching any game in the series. Nonetheless, I have a pretty good idea what's going on, and even if I don't care for the franchise, I still feel somewhat insulted as a gamer. Fans were explicitly promised a variety of endings that would vary greatly depending on the choices you made over the course of the trilogy, and said freedom of action was one of the things Mass Effect was known for. Instead... well, you get to choose between a red explosion, a green explosion and a blue explosion. (Michael Bay would probably argue that any minute difference in an explosion would be a huge difference maker, but hey, it's Michael Bay. ALIENS.) I know you're going to nitpick and say there are other differences, but they were nowhere near what was explicitly promised. Perhaps the worst part is the "buy our shit" message that comes immediately afterwards. Yeah, I'd be pissed too.

So yeah, lots of outrage. And most of the time, when something like that happens it peters out pretty quick. Not here though... people went so apeshit over this that it's still the topic of the day, every day.

But the point of this post isn't to recap what happened or anything (else the word "plothole" would be everywhere), I'm just wondering... WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? They backtracked in pathetic fashion on a heavily promised and very anticipated feature of the game, they couldn't not have expected the fans would hate it. Maybe they didn't anticipate the supernova nature of the backlash, fair enough. But were they really thinking Mass Effect fans would actually like it? Some people believe that the writers had something else entirely in the works, but someone higher up thought whatever story they came up with would cripple DLC sales, so that someone stepped in and rewrote everything to make said DLC more potentially appealing, without ever considering what Mass Effect is all about in the first place. As I said, I never played any of the games, but according to many who did, it does seem like the last ten minutes seem to be written by someone else entirely.

Either way... I'm still in disbelief. Here you're looking at one of the most popular franchises in modern gaming, and in a matter of minutes they make it into something you can't even think about without trying to throw up. Why? Why would they do that? To drum up DLC sales? Didn't they think, wait, we might piss people off enough that they wouldn't buy it? I haven't studied in marketing, but that doesn't make an ounce of sense. I'm writing this today to ask: any ideas, guys? I'm trying to understand, grasp why they did the things they did, but... no way.

Now you know how long-time Metroid fans felt after the abortion, maybe even franchise-killer (AFAIK there is no new Metroid title in the works) that was Other M - a game that could've worked, except the storytelling was so horrendous it dragged everything down with it, even by the standards of a guy that doesn't give a hoot about story in the first place.


  1. My theory is that the writers, despite creating a series in which the direction and vision was up to the players, wanted to have one cohesive, canon ending that was of their own design.
    It is an incredibly stupid move for such an open-ended game, where choice is the bread and butter. Moreso because the players were PROMISED diverse multiple endings.

    The other valid theory is the DLC: it's like EA knew that was going to piss people off, which is why they then went "watch out for future DLC at the end": thanks to the incredible backlash they can now go "oh, what, you want DLC? Well, if you insist...", as if it weren't the intention from the beginning.

    It is a bit saddening that profit-mongering gets in the way of artistic direction so often (Michael Bay, anyone?) nowadays. That's one thing I'll say for Other M: it never felt like it was doing that whole shitty story just to please the fans or turn a profit: it felt like it was doing it because THE WRITERS WERE FRICKIN' IDIOTS ARGLBLARGL

    1. The first theory, if true, wouldn't have even been necessary. There are games with multiple endings that still have one canonical end. Why not just do that?

  2. I didn't play the Mass Effect games, but it reminds me of (and I know this example isn't on the same level) Rare's failure to make Stop n Swop a part of Banjo Tooie. I love that game but even today I feel a little sad wondering what might have been. Back then I waited so long for Tooie to come out so I could get the secret items, then what? Just attack a couple of in game BK cartridges with eyes. Letdown. I know Rare faced technical difficulties but still a letdown.