Bioware puts a match to the fan gasoline with Mass Effect 3’s “New Ending”

As IGN and some others have reported today, Mass Effect 3 is getting a new ending. Yes, its true, for perhaps only the second time in gaming history, a developer is caving into the fans demands to change the ending to its creation.

Mass Effect 3 was released on March 6th to a pretty hot welcome. Fans were excited to finish the trilogy that has allowed them to shape its universe with their choices. Critics all over the nation were giving it scores of 9.0 or better and haling it as a great ending for the series. Then, the 7th rolled around, and people started finishing the fight. Or rather, having it finished for them.

The “ending” as it turned out, was nothing anyone was expecting. Usually, that’s a good thing. It means they surprised everyone, right? If no one saw it coming, it must’ve been creative genius! There’s a lot of angry gamers that would disagree with that assumption, and that rage has resulted with a lot of negative feedback, and even some poorly titled campaigns, like Retake Mass Effect. Let’s be clear. To “retake” something you have to at one point owned it, in this case, the creative process of Mass Effect. The gamers never ever had that, but at least its for charity.

So why all the fuss? Well, in basic terms, the Mass Effect trilogy has been a series that allowed its players to make a multitude of choices to influence the outcomes of the games, and shape the universe, to some extent. Mass Effect 3 “promised” to allow players to see the result of those choices. It would task them with uniting as much of the galaxy as they could to wage war to take back Earth. The process is done very well. Decisions you make can very well lead to genocide of more than one race, but the execution of the result of these decisions is where the game stumbles.

For all the effort in giving the players freedom and the power to shape the universe within the game, ME3 effectively flushes it all down the toilet by giving players one of two cinematics to open the battle for Earth, which depend on the races you gather and how strong they are. Then they take those same parameters, signified by a green bar and number, to determine whether or not we get to even choose between 1 to 3 endings. To top it all off, the endings are fundamentally the same, except with different color explosions and the actual result, which isn’t really shown clearly.

This got fans outright pissed. Thousands of them claim that the final ten minutes ruin the entire franchise for them, and that they can’t and won’t play them anymore. Many of them are crying out for a new ending, although they’re split between just extending it to give closure to loose ends and flat out changing the whole deal. The past couple weeks has seen this turmoil drenched in internet gasoline by the fans taking to each others’ throats. This left Bioware with the power. They could stick to their guns, and leave the gas covered bomb alone. They had every right to say the ending is final. Instead, they broke out the matches.

To be frank, Bioware can’t please everyone by doing this. There’s a group of people that actually like the ending, claiming that it hints to much deeper things at play than just what is shown at the surface. If Bioware’s new ending disproves these things, it will effectively kill that debate and have another group angry at them. If they don’t change the ending’s mechanics, fans demanding a new ending will be angrier. If they don’t give the closure the fans feel is necessary, which is an arbitrary amount, that’s a second group that will be getting angrier. Truth be told, if done right, they’ll probably at best appease two of the three groups, but if done wrong, they can have just about everyone mad. The worst that could have happened had EA/BW done nothing is the fans would start kicking a dead horse. They can’t say anything new at this point. EA/BW have both survived the storm already, but are taking a chance on another one.

Now, let’s consider what this means for the industry and entertainment in general. By doing this, EA/BW are setting a precedent for games. They are basically showing that fans can possibly force a change to a game’s ending by showing adequate distaste. This will be hard pressed to remain an isolated incident. Gamers will always be able to point back to this when another game comes around and doesn’t live up to whatever is going on in their heads.

This is something that has only happened once, with Fallout 3, and that game wasn’t as main stream as ME3. Fallout 3’s ending change was relatively under the radar to most people who didn’t play the game. ME3’s whole ending fiasco is front and center of video game news. Few people brought up Fallout 3’s ending woes in the discussion over ME3, but you can be sure that ME3 will be brought up every time there’s serious debate over the quality of a game’s end, and whether or now devs should update/change it.

So do I think this is a good idea? No. As much as I lean towards disliking the ending (the game itself overshadows it with its greatness, IMO), the damage is already done. The 3.5 million that bought the game have probably already seen the ending at this point. They all know what happened, and any changes they make isn’t going to make it fade from memory. I also believe, however, that “fans” willing to so easily cast aside something they’ve supported and enjoyed for five years are overreacting to ten minutes of controversial material. Was the ending a flop? you can certainly argue that. Does it make the 100+ hours the preceded it any less amazing? You’ll never convince me that it has that kind of impact. It’s why I made this:

Shameless, I know, but it’s meant to illustrate where I stand on this subject. Celebrate the great parts. Don’t let ten minutes consume everything.

In the eyes of gamers, BW dropped the ball with ME3’s ending. Giving into the outcry vindicates those beliefs, and opens a floodgate that’s been sealed for a very very long time. May they tread softly.


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6 responses to “Bioware puts a match to the fan gasoline with Mass Effect 3’s “New Ending””

  1. rsmoneycheap says :

    Nice blog.

  2. kaitharshayr says :

    Have to agree with all you’ve said. I am ok with the ending but am also disappointed with it, I would have liked a bit more epilogue in terms of what happened to everyone. But I really can’t understand these people who say it’s ruined the whole game. That they will never replay it again and that they will never buy a Bioware game again. There’s so much to it and so many good moments that it just seems crazy.

    • vahung says :

      Deep down, I always knew things in this game couldn’t end well without something totally ridiculous. The first game had the galaxy struggling against one Reaper, and this entry had thousands. The set up really didn’t allow for a conventional ending anyways.

      I also felt we were in for it when they first showed the Crucible, and it looked like the Death Star, lol.

  3. Inzen says :

    While i mostly agree, I would think that the public outcry in a way forces for developers to think twice of dropping the ball in the future. There is a fine line between artistic ending and catering the fans.

    And having the end of a trilogy ends in that note, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. What’s to stop game companies from pulling another trick like this in the future?

    What’s for sure for me, I will play a bioware/EA game much later than the mass public in the future. Especially ME4. 🙂

    • vahung says :

      At the same time, I think its a scary thought that fans can “force” game creators to sacrifice their integrity in altering their own creation. In the creative business, its bad enough having companies gutting your work and potentially altering what it was meant to be. Now, the fans can force that too?

      If this ending is truly what the story writers wanted it to be, then I don’t think they should budge.

      I also find it rather disappointing that an ending like this that spurs debate over the real meaning and the alluded details is seen as a master stroke in movies, but reason to lynch someone in video games.

      • Inzen says :

        Yeah. That the force of fans can do it does seem worrying. But it does show a clear message. Even if you want artistic ending, you can flesh it out a little.

        People can accept this kind of ending for ME1 or ME2, since they know it’s a trilogy, but when you keep saying that this is the end of trilogy and it’s closure and such. (Bioware’s own statement, iirc) So, the expected lynching happens when they don’t deliver.

        The story doesn’t have to be changed, just flesh it out with more details.

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