Well, Internet, I hope you’re happy. BioWare is caving in to massive player demands that they change the ending(s) to Mass Effect 3. This follows the two weeks of almost immediate backlash to the conclusion of the epic sci-fi trilogy.
In a blog post today, BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka detailed why this was happening. In short, “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.” This reaction to criticism will include “a number of game content initiatives” to address player outrage (more information will be coming in April).
This, by and large, is understandable, but also extremely unfortunate. This could potentially set a precedent where players feel they own the right to guide the artistic direction of studios and franchises. Regardless of the “video games are art” debate, these are still artistic endeavors, and when you attempt to take away the creator’s agency over the creation process, it ceases to be what it is and becomes what you want it to be. Effectively, you are manipulating someone for your selfish purposes of self-satisfaction.
BioWare has created the product they wanted to create (well, maybe; I’m sure they’d like to rethink that planet-scanning thing) and told the story they wanted to tell. You do not have the right to tell them how to use their own property, intellectual or otherwise. Return your game, trade it in for more fitted hats, whatever. Sales numbers should be all BioWare needs to let them know if they’ve failed in serving their fans, not legal action or ridiculous online petitions.
And irrespective of what I think of the ending, failures should stand as they are. They mark a lesson to be learned for future courses of action. Being immediately reactive to public outrage with zero time for fruitful analysis will get you nowhere in the end. It’s the same reason developers don’t take what gameplay testers say at face value; THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT. The core sentiment may be in tact, but the specificity is lacking.
If you give in to the rouse that has been rabbled, it’s all downhill from here. I guarantee you that whether the retooled end-game content is acceptable or not, the players will not be satisfied. They will have given themselves exactly what they want. This will go down as the single most masturbatory moment of modern video game developer-player relations and set the trend for the next time someone says they don’t like how a game ends.
I mean, hell, maybe we should get them to change the end to Titanic, too. That boat’s too big to sink!
Hold the line!