We Held the Line! Bioware Announces Mass Effect 3 Ending Will Be Changed!Well, it's happened: Bioware has given in to fan pressure and issued a statement about the horrible triptych of shoddy endings wheeled out at the tail-end of what is otherwise the finest game in the trilogy. Here's the statement from Bioware co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka. Observe the wonder!
"To Mass Effect 3 players, from Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare.
As co-founder and GM of BioWare, I’m very proud of the ME3 team; I personally believe Mass Effect 3 is the best work we’ve yet created. So, it’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations. Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.
I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team. The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3’s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.
Mass Effect 3 concludes a trilogy with so much player control and ownership of the story that it was hard for us to predict the range of emotions players would feel when they finished playing through it. The journey you undertake in Mass Effect provokes an intense range of highly personal emotions in the player; even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us. This is an issue we care about deeply, and we will respond to it in a fair and timely way. We’re already working hard to do that.
To that end, since the game launched, the team has been poring over everything they can find about reactions to the game – industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. The Mass Effect team, like other teams across the BioWare Label within EA, consists of passionate people who work hard for the love of creating experiences that excite and delight our fans. I’m honored to work with them because they have the courage and strength to respond to constructive feedback.
Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.
The reaction to the release of Mass Effect 3 has been unprecedented. On one hand, some of our loyal fans are passionately expressing their displeasure about how their game concluded; we care about this feedback, and we’re planning to directly address it. However, most folks appear to agree that the game as a whole is exceptional, with more than 75 critics giving it a perfect review score and a review average in the mid-90s. Net, I’m proud of the team, but we can and must always strive to do better.
Some of the criticism that has been delivered in the heat of passion by our most ardent fans, even if founded on valid principles, such as seeking more clarity to questions or looking for more closure, for example – has unfortunately become destructive rather than constructive. We listen and will respond to constructive criticism, but much as we will not tolerate individual attacks on our team members, we will not support or respond to destructive commentary.
If you are a Mass Effect fan and have input for the team – we respect your opinion and want to hear it. We’re committed to address your constructive feedback as best we can. In return, I’d ask that you help us do that by supporting what I truly believe is the best game BioWare has yet crafted. I urge you to do your own research: play the game, finish it and tell us what you think. Tell your friends if you feel it’s a good game as a whole. Trust that we are doing our damndest, as always, to address your feedback. As artists, we care about our fans deeply and we appreciate your support.
Thank you for your feedback – we are listening.
If that looked a little bit long, it's totally worth the read; this is a huge moment in gaming history, but it has actually been done before; Bioware set that precedent with Fallout 3's Broken Steel, Bioware even did it with Dragon Age, adding an additional ending DLC after an already exceptional ending. See? Sometimes you can make a good thing even better.
Seeing as how we've actually made a major victory here in the face of a creative slap in the... er, face, it might seem petulant of me to take issue with the tone of how this news is generally being addressed by the gaming press. In general. But I'm going to do it anyway. Going.
The guys over at Gamespot, for example (all fine journalists) have unleashed a string of complaints. And that's fine, everyone is entitled to their opinions. But their rebukes range from generalisations:
"But it's all taken on such an ugly tone that it's hard to sympathize. Coherent discussion is too often shouted down by the enraged minority."
To very valid comparisons.
"I'm reminded of Beethoven, who made extensive revisions to Fidelio (and its overtures), in part based on audience disapproval."
And a few days back, Ken Levine, the genius behind Bioshock, said the following:
"I think if those people got what they wanted and they wrote their ending they would be very disappointed in the emotional feeling they got because... they didn't really create it… This whole thing is making me a little bit sad because I don't think anyone would get what they wanted if that happened."
Which, again, is a valid spin on things, but it's coming from the mouth of someone who is sitting squarely on the other side of the fence. At no point was Bioshock about fan feedback; the game issued forth after years in a closed community of creators, who then stood back and enjoyed, for the most part, the sweet, sweet tang of accolades. Mmmm. Accolades.
But Dr. Ray Muzyka, and much of the gaming community who've been rankled by this move, appear to be missing the point. They're assuming that this is a slippery slope, and that by acceding to our 'demands' (they were never demands, they were coherent, analytical, borderline academic rebuttals to a creative assertion which, frankly, Bioware fumbled spectacularly), the door has been opened. The door through which fans can comfortably pee all over the creative property of the artists who make the games we love so much.
I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence by claiming that (a) None of the fans were as rabid and petty as Muzyka has claimed, or that (b) those same fans won't claim precedent with other games later, and probably do so under far less vital circumstances. But Mass Effect did something fairly unique: it opened a dialogue with fans, by providing them with thousands of choices, all of which had consequences. Mass Effect is about reaping the benefits of your actions, or suffering from hasty decisions made because you have a propensity towards skipping past vital dialogue. And Casey Hudson has stated that fans have helped shape the development of the sequels. Put those two factors together, and you have a unique two-way creative street, and whilst that street belongs to Bioware, we're walking on it.
But it's baffling to me how people can see this as a tragic puncturing of the sacred bubble within which game creators work and develop their products. People who make games are obviously gamers themselves, and as gamers, I guarantee you that they've taken umbrage with the direction in which television shows, movies, comics, novels and especially games have concluded throughout their lives as consumers. Do you know how badly people wanted Firefly to end properly? Even if Joss Whedon screwed us with Serenity by offing several key characters (douche move, Joss. Douche move.), it was fan support that made that continuation possible. And I know it's different because Firefly was cancelled, but the people actually making the creative calls on games like Mass Effect thrive on player feedback. More than thrive; they require it, and they, presumably, hunger for that vital outsiders perspective which, as insiders, they can't add to the process. At no point would they let fans write the story - we're not the writers, they are - but it's being done for the fans, so to disregard the fans would be creative suicide. THAT would be truly compromising their work of art. As would letting this wonderful, collaborative body of work go out onto the shelves with a tacked-on, baffling rush-job of an ending which, Bioware have already admitted, wasn't the ending they originally intended.
So for the love of god, stop referring to the fans who made this happen as the vocal minority. They're the ones who made this happen, who raised $70 000 for charity, who collaborated with ex-Bioware PR to deconstruct the vague, nebulous, placating press releases which treated them like petulant children. You're the vocal minority, and you always have been. Critics might have given the game overwhelmingly positive reviews, but critics, as much as they want and claim to be (myself included) aren't the fans; they're a rarified, elevated, incredibly microscopic subset of gamers with, let's be honest, an ever-so-slightly inflated sense of self-worth. It's the majority, the vocal, wonderful majority that made this happen.
So here's my promise to you: if this, as many are claiming, forever ruins the ability of game-makers to create titles for us, I'll eat a box of hair. I'll eat that hair right on up. But I suspect this will make this uniquely interactive medium evolve into an art form truly capable of reacting to it's consumers, as opposed to blithely working away in a vacuum. Most games are like films: they have a set path, a beginning, middle and end, and we're just along for the ride. In that case, bad writing is harder to address, as we agreed to lock ourselves to the rails from the get-go. But with a game which from the outset proudly hands us the reins and promises us we'll have near-total control, this is going to be a very, very good thing in the long run. For both us, and Bioware.
…Provided the amendments they make don't suck ass. Which they might.
We held the line because we love what you do, Bioware.
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