Beholden: Giving the Fans What They Want?

Now with added endings?

Mass Effect 3, a game that has so far had a lot more negative press than Bioware or EA probably hoped for. As you may be aware by now, there has been a mass outcry at the rather lackluster quality of the ending.

If you’re a regular reader here you will know that I promised to not buy the game. In fact, I still haven’t but as a journalist it is my job to write about the things that happen in the gaming world and the response here sets a whole new paradigm for our favourite hobby.

Naturally, this article is going to involve some spoilers about the ending of Mass Effect 3, so if you want to avoid those you might want to stop reading.

Ok, so the few of you that are left: hello! You’re probably aware of the multiple endings by now and probably outraged or at least kind of annoyed at the apparent lack of depth. Lets start with Bioware’s decision to essentially adapt a meme into the twist of its tale.

Yeah, the entire twist is pretty much the Xzibit ‘Yo Dawg’ meme as shown by the picture below. I wasn’t aware M. Night Shyamalan worked at Bioware now. To expand, towards the end of the game the AI controlling the Reapers tells you that it purges the galaxy every fifty thousand years so that you won’t wipe yourself out.

Xzibit

That’s a rather Machiavellian approach to the entire thing really, isn’t it? It doesn’t want us to destroy ourselves so it does it for us. The controller then gives us three choices: destroy the reapers,  take control of the reapers or initiate synergy between synthetic and organic life.

However, many fans have regarded the choice as meaningless, no matter which option you take it ends up with Shepard’s apparent death and the destruction of the entire Mass Relay network. It’s like ice cream, no matter what the flavour, it’s still a tasty frozen treat. In this case, not only is it not ice cream, it’s massive galactic destruction with death sprinkles.

The Internet has, of course, exploded with the screams of a thousand critics damning the ending. Personally, I think the ending is a brave choice  from Bioware but I don’t think it was the right choice and evidently I am not alone in thinking that. Several groups have arisen and have had varying degrees of success in righting what they feel is a wrong. Amazon has recently been offering refunds to unsatisfied customers and Bioware have promised to look into the matter.

We appreciate your feedback, but not here...

The problem I’m seeing here however, is that the ending as it stands is pretty final, which is why I think it’s brave but it means that Bioware are either going to have to play the ‘alternate universe’ card or retcon the entire ending. Either choice makes any alternate ending DLC necessary for the game to fit their new vision.

If Bioware do relent and release an alternative ending however, who is to say that it is going to be good enough? What happens if the DLC also gets panned by the majority?

All of these are important questions but the paradigm they could establish is far more important. If the community successfully force Bioware’s hand into crafting a new ending that meets their specifications then it opens up the field for all kinds of similar action with other titles. Returns policies could be amended so that they cover not only damaged goods but also unsatisfying ones.

Designers would suddenly become far more beholden to the pressure of the end user and the Internet. Unfortunately, the majority of the Internet has a real difficulty with remaining objective and love getting into hype. In extreme cases we could see the end of brave endings like the one in Mass Effect 3 which strikes a chord with its definite finality.

Masters of Retcon

We could see numerous retcons to pander to the community. Whilst I feel working with the community is a great thing that more developers should do, we need to be careful that we don’t interfere with the story they want to tell. We need to find a midpoint that allows us input without sacrificing design integrity.

Bioware have always told brilliant stories and whilst the execution and the last twenty minutes of the game might fall short of our grand expectations, we must not allow ourselves to get carried away and swept up into some righteous crusade of customer rights.

In the words of Machiavelli – “Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.” Everyone is going to dislike something.

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