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Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy
March 17, 2012 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Mass Effect 3, a blockbuster video game (previously: 1, 2), and no stranger to controversy, is encountering controversy of a different sort over the series ending. Some fans feel it is incomplete and lacks closure, over 90% by some polls. It opens up interesting questions, such as: how are video games different than other media? Do consumers of video games have a reasonable right to ask for another ending, or is it akin to asking for modifications to the Mona Lisa? Many spoilers inside.

Forbes overview of the situation, and a similar analysis from Ars Technica, with a counter view from Kotaku and Penny Arcade
Official Statement from Bioware
Interesting post about the ending from the eyes of a script writer
Fascinating PR analysis of Bioware's responses
A clever indoctrination retcon theory by fans (claiming that ending is just a dream)
Fan efforts asking for a better ending: Facebook Group and even a charity drive for Child's Play
Polls: 1, 2
posted by brool (260 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't played any of the Mass Effect games, so this is my only question: Is the ending to Mass Effect 3 worse than the "ending" to Knights of the Old Republic 2?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 PM on March 17, 2012


...incomplete and lacks closure...

Like it will need a sequel to satisfy fans....
posted by cjorgensen at 6:36 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have played the Mass Effect games and enjoyed them but won't have a chance to play Mass Effect 3 for at least a couple months so...should I spoil the ending for myself?

I kinda wish someone had spoiled the final boss of Mass Effect 2 for me.
posted by unsupervised at 6:36 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was personally disappointed; After 120 hours+ in the series, spread out over a few years, my expectation was that the choices made would deliver a meaningful catharsis.

From a writing/art perspective, I found much of the ending just lazy. Actually, compared to the high-water mark of ME2-- which was a tightly scripted heist movie wrapped up as a game--with one of the most nailbiting finishes in history-- ME3 felt in general, like a sort of meandering
denouement.

Frustratingly, BioWare illustrated they have the chops for it-- Mordin Solus' character arc is complete and delivered powerfully-- but it was like they just didn't care to go the distance overall.

Appreciated the compilation of criticism, brool.
posted by mrdaneri at 6:37 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amid all the controversy, the ending brought us a new hero. He tried to save Shepard from what was coming. His name was Marauder Shields.
posted by emmtee at 6:39 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


@Faint: Personally, I felt the ME3 ending was worse, but it was made more tragic by the fact that some of the other storylines in the series were so good. BTW there is a fan-made patch for KOTOR 2 that tries to fix some of the rushed ending (the Restored Content Mod)
posted by brool at 6:42 PM on March 17, 2012


I've been following this and it's totally fascinating. I'm actually in the middle of a huge wall-of-text blog post right now!

For those who have finished the game already, I recommend Geoff Keighley's feature The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3. (There are a lot of spoilers, so wait if you haven't.) I poked Keighley on Twitter today and he said he was planning a new chapter about the ending controversy.
posted by danb at 6:44 PM on March 17, 2012


So, when customers are dissatisfied, it's a controversy?

The waitress failed to refill my coffee. It's a controversy. FedEx is late. Controversy. I bought Springsteen tickets and he didn't play anything from Nebraska. Fucking controversy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:01 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


When there is a loud, public, heated argument, it's a controversy.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the Ars Techina link: " After investing dozens of hours into a story where every decision seems to matter, Mass Effect 3 players "reach the ending of ME3 and realize that everything you have done means nothing," as the Facebook protest group puts it."

Yeah, nobody wants that much reality in their video games.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 PM on March 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


It's not an ending, it's a set up for future DLC.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:08 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, at least with the joy that is DLC, they could offer the "Mass Effect 3 - The Hidden Ending Files" for the unhappy users...

Or "Mass Effect 3 - The Director's Cut" or...

I really have no clue what I am talking about. I got mad at ME2 and never finished before I had to return the borrowed 360...
posted by Samizdata at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2012


Wow. I SO needed to preview before posting.
posted by Samizdata at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2012


Video game endings are often pretty iffy, though... Deus Ex was an amazing game, but at the end the choices boiled down to three possible options, regardless of what you had done up to that point. Same with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The ending of Batman: Arkham Asylum was dodgy, and the ending of Arkham City was terrible... it's possible that the reaction to the ending is in inverse proportion to the quality of the rest of the game, because being made to stop playing is so unwelcome.

Two things that leap out at me:

1) One of the major arguments for the precedent of changing the end of a game by DLC is that of Fallout 3. I think the original Fallout 3 ending actually would have worked very well for Mass Effect 3. The ending of Fallout 3 was also better than the amended ending, where the hero wakes up some weeks later in a hospital bed, totally recovered, his sacrifice rendered post factum not a sacrifice at all. The main problem with it was that if you had one companion along with you - the radiation-proof super mutant - it became ridiculous that he was refusing to do something which would be trivially simple for him and totally fatal for you. And the refusal of other people who, depending on how you played the game, might be massively better and more noble people than you, to give their own lives also failed the sniff test. Whereas, actually, Shepard would have fitted perfectly into the ending of Fallout 3, because no matter whether she is a paragon or a renegade she is a hero, and fiercely loyal to her crew, and the ending of Fallout 3 would have fit well into Mass Effect 3.

2) This controversy seems to be driven primarily by BSN and its outposts. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's actually hard to get a picture of how wide the non-vocal opposition to the ending was. There's some pretty concerted comment-bombing of discussions outside BSN. At a guess, I'd put the vocal opposition somewhere in the tens of thousands (the BSN poll has 50,000 votes, but I suspect there is some multiple voting there). Which is a lot of people, but how many people are quietly dissatisfied is an interesting question.

3) Up to the ending, the game has done some pretty remarkable things with providing a consistent playing experience for people whose playthrough of Mass Effect 2 might have left them with a dozen surviving team members or none. BioWare may be suffering from raised expectations - which is odd, given how, in the run-up to release, the angry brigades were saying that it was going to be universally terrible because of a) the evil influence of Jennifer Hepler on all BioWare games, even the ones she doesn't work on, b) the enforced and constant male-male sex that Shepard would be forced to have, c) the franchise's transformation to a cover-based shooter in the Gears of War style, with no RPG elements and so on.

4) As a friend pointed out, the "indoctrination theory" is basically Evangelion. Nothing wrong with that, but nonetheless.

(Personally, I think I was more irritated by the appearance of Kai Leng - who was pretty clearly telling me to buy a Mass Effect novel.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


When there is a loud, public, heated argument...

... about artistic and monetary choices in a consumer product, it's not a controversy. It's unhappy customers.

Calling it a controversy gives it a weight it doesn't deserve, and only serves to cheapen language and turn up rhetorical heat for no gain.

If this is a controversy, then I suppose a dropped ice cream cone is a tragedy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, I was disappointed by the ending. Not that it wasn't a 100% happy Ewok yub-nub song thing, or even really about what happened, but at how utterly cursory and minimum-effort it felt.

It seems they wanted to go for this ambiguous Evangelion ending that'd leave fans speculating and theorising, but they didn't understand why good examples of that kind of ending work or what they'd have to have done throughout the series to have that feel justified and earned.

Instead they dropped a jumble of potentially plot-rewriting 'revelations' in the space of one brief conversation, left no time for any explanation or inquiry about this stuff before you had to make an arbitrary decision based on no information whatsoever, played one of three variations (only significant difference: colour of explosion!) of a cutscene so brief that it isn't even clear whether what happened was helpful or destructive, and that was that.

Oh, and Buzz Aldrin is the creepiest grandpa ever, my sweet. YOU ARE LEGEND BUY SOME DLC.

On the whole I'm in the 'quietly disappointed' camp. I loved almost every minute of ME3, and of the series as a whole, and the ending hasn't really done anything to spoil that. It's just bizarre and jarring that a game that lavishes focus and screen-time on favourite returning characters and big events would seem so desperate to get the ending over and done with in the most compressed, information-poor, almost dismissive manner possible.

My biggest disappointment is the lack any kind of conversation or interaction with Harbinger. He never even ASSUMES DIRECT CONTROL of anything, and that makes me sad. I love that guy.
posted by emmtee at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


4) As a friend pointed out, the "indoctrination theory" is basically Evangelion. Nothing wrong with that, but nonetheless.

The first thing I thought when I heard about the green ending was: "Well, that's fucking anime. What the hell?"
posted by curious nu at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2012


I haven't been a gamer in a while, but I just watched the first 15 minutes of Mass Effect 3 via Comcast On Demand, if you can believe that. It looked pretty sweet.
posted by grog at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2012


Man, everybody's just falling over themselves to be dismissive! Listen, I'll make a deal with everybody: let's just agree that blah blah blah first world problems blah blah just a video game blah what did you expect blah blah.

Okay, fine, if you want to split semantic hairs, it's not a "controversy," but narrative betrayal of this magnitude is something. Call it what you want. Maybe you don't care! Cool! Some people do care. Caring about stories is not stupid. Mass Effect 3 is a video game, but it is also a story.

For people that have not followed the Mass Effect series for the last six years, imagine if the Harry Potter books had ended with Harry destroying all magic, everywhere, ending wizarding society and turning everyone into muggles and we have no idea what happened to anybody or how this change affects any of the characters.

That's the ending of Mass Effect 3.

My solution was to write about it on my livejournal.
posted by pts at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


Calling it a controversy gives it a weight it doesn't deserve, and only serves to cheapen language and turn up rhetorical heat for no gain.

Hey want to maybe talk about the game instead of pointing out how one dude used a word you didn't like?

Did you play Mass Effect 3? Have you finished it? What did you think?
posted by pts at 7:21 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just me, but as a massively avid ME fan, I was fine with the ending I chose (green). The bottom line is that of the three choices, I didn't like ANY of them.

**** SPOILERS ****

Destruction was right out. I had commited to the Geth, and there was no way that EDI was going down.

Control? Nope, my Shepard would never do it, and the Reapers were far too dangerous to give control of them to anyone, even Shepard.

Synthesis was my choice, even though I wanted the Reapers gone. I chose it because it was the option that preserved the most life in the universe, even if it felt like I didn't really complete my mission. The little hug between EDI and Joker, however, made me feel better.

I watched my ending, said goodbye to Shepard and that was that.

**** END O' SPOILERS ****

The bottom line is that my story ended with that choice, and maybe it wasn't ideal, but it was the best that Shepard could do. I didn't even realize that the other endings were similar because I'm not the kind of player to go back, reload a save, and try to see the other endings. I had an ending, my story was done, that was enough for me.

Now as to the bullshit that is 'Galactic Readiness' and MP requirements, that pissed me off.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:25 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


4) As a friend pointed out, the "indoctrination theory" is basically Evangelion.

I was just thinking this might be the most controversial ending to a sci-fi series since Evangelion.

People were really pissed off, and they eventually released a more sensical final two episodes.
posted by bobo123 at 7:28 PM on March 17, 2012


I do think the indoctrination theory is quite likely to be true though. It's the single best way to introduce some DLC to the end-game.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:29 PM on March 17, 2012


This article summed things up nicely, IMO.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:29 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


While YouTube is full of 'fixed' endings (which boil down to 'take red ending, remove crazy, relays and synthetic pals are fine, add footage from original CG trailer to taste'), I prefer the existential meditation on the fragility of life and pointlessness of struggle that is just letting Marauder Shields shoot Shepard before she reaches the Conduit.

It's like the best ending to MGS4, which is turning the console off when the ending reaches a gunshot.
posted by emmtee at 7:31 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can understand how an ending to a game or a movie can ruin the entire experience - when I play a game or watch a movie, I'd like a satisfying closure - otherwise, all it seems to me would be that the developers or producers are trying to cash in on a sequel or they just want to quickly tie things up so that they can launch the product - 2 such notable games that my friends have mentioned would be KOTOR2 and Fallout 3.
posted by HeyHerman at 7:36 PM on March 17, 2012


I've played through the first two games but find myself delaying on the third one and reading spoilers because I don't really care that much. As good as parts of #2 were, I felt like the plot kind of fell apart and the universe-building hit a wall so there isn't much #3 can do to really excite me, story-wise. And I think knowing the endings doesn't bother me because it sounds like the real good stuff is in the character vignettes leading up to it, and if I end up playing the game it'll be to see what happens to all the characters I managed to keep alive at the end of #2.
posted by palidor at 7:36 PM on March 17, 2012


My biggest complain about the Mass Effect series is that Tali's face wasn't revealed to be some kind of grotesque pig-snout thing. I did the laughable romance stuff with her in #2 just for the mask to be removed, and I got nothing. I seriously think this would be the best thing, so that all the nerds trying to romance Tali because she's mysterious and vulnerable get what they deserve when her face is revealed to be monstrous. Bioware has no creativity!

Assuming this doesn't happen in #3, of course, in which case I love you Bioware
posted by palidor at 7:40 PM on March 17, 2012


I haven't played any of the Mass Effect games and would probably hate them if I did, but everything I've read about the series focuses on the writers' devotion to reflecting player choices in the proceeding events. It goes from that to a situation where you're essentially asked if you want to see ending A, B or C, which was perfectly great in Clue but not so much when you're expecting to see the fallout of the decisions you've already made and instead it turns out that none of them matter in the resolution of the whole thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm avoiding spoilers (probably won't play this game until I can buy it for under $30) but considering the quality of the writing in the rest of the series I'm unsurprised that the ending is not exactly brilliant.

I think the best example of ME-like storytelling done right is a sadly underappreciated game called Alpha Protocol ("the Espionage RPG"). It came out around the same time as ME2 and has a lot in common with it (I think some of the same people may have been involved) but, although some of the mission gameplay is a bit dodgy and it has some annoying bugs, the storytelling is 1000 times better.

The main character actually has a personality, which in your hands can express itself as anything from loveable rogue to complete psycho [spoilers]. Your behaviour can't be boiled down to a series of binary moral decisions. The way you react to the other characters, plus the way you complete missions, can result in a surprisingly large number of different endings. You get dialogue options like "sarcastic", "mocking" and "fuck off". Sometimes it's really funny. Anyone with an interest in the possibilities of videogame narrative form needs to give it a try.

Just remember: stealth and pistols. It's the only way to play.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:50 PM on March 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, nobody wants that much reality in their video games.

Charging you 160 dollars or so, and having you invest around 150 hours, with the big promise that your choices matter, only to have ONE ENDING that renders everything you did futile and worthless, is very poor storytelling. It's lazy, it's sloppy, and after the excellent ending of ME2, which demonstrated that they were perfectly capable of handling complexity, is an incredible letdown.

Paying $160 for a lesson in the futility of everything may be a great deal for Bioware in the current quarter, but I submit that it's a poor long-term strategy. Between this and the semi-disaster of DA2 (which, oddly, I rather liked, despite its many problems) I can't imagine that most people still have EA or Bioware on their Day 1 lists anymore.

It's not like, say, one of those Russian novels about futility, because you've only invested eight bucks and six or eight hours. The level of commitment in a computer game, in terms of both money and time, is far greater. Multiply that times three for a trilogy.

In essence, they got people's hopes all up, got them engaged in what was a pretty good story, and slugged them in the gut at the very end. EA and their drones like to paint the people upset about this as entitled whiners, but if you'll notice, NOBODY is complaining about the Mordin arc, which did not end 'well' -- it was not rainbows and ponies. But it was exceptionally good storytelling.

This is not at all true of the overall ending. After you 'finish', they should cue up the Nelson laugh. "Sucker! Ha ha!".... and leave it on permanent loop until you uninstall the game.
posted by Malor at 7:52 PM on March 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Sadly, the Tali face reveal in ME3 was one of the laziest things ever. Think lightly retouched stock photo.

Personally I just don't understand how they fucked up everything so bad. I've loved almost everything about the game, except for the last damn minutes. Even my wife, who introduced me to Bioware, who's loved everything Bioware including DA2, is mad as hell.

I'm personally not too mad, more just sad and confused. Oh well.

And CPB, I don't linger for hours in grocery stores. Less than 2 hours a week. I've spent at least 120 hours in the Mass Effect series. So there.
posted by kmz at 7:54 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It came out around the same time as ME2 and has a lot in common with it (I think some of the same people may have been involved) but, although some of the mission gameplay is a bit dodgy and it has some annoying bugs, the storytelling is 1000 times better.

It was actually made by Obsidian Entertainment, the former Black Isle Studios. They're not BioWare, but they made Fallout (1, 2 and New Vegas) and Planescape: Torment - which, when you think about it, is a heck of a lot more than most saints ever did for us.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:54 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who has never really enjoyed multiplayer, I will say that Bioware got that part of the game completely right. It's cooperative (four players need to survive 10 waves of enemies), with tons of nifty guns and powerups you can earn, and it is the most fun I've ever had playing mp. I just logged off of Live after a great session with some Mefites - come join us if you're interested!
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:55 PM on March 17, 2012


I think the best example of ME-like storytelling done right is a sadly underappreciated game called Alpha Protocol ("the Espionage RPG"). It came out around the same time as ME2 and has a lot in common with it (I think some of the same people may have been involved) but, although some of the mission gameplay is a bit dodgy and it has some annoying bugs, the storytelling is 1000 times better.

I loved Alpha Protocol so much. That was a game that really could have done with a "story mode", though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:56 PM on March 17, 2012


As long as we're mentioning the ending of Fallout 3, here's all the possible endings of it's sequel, New Vegas (MASSIVE SPOILERS). Now it's a literal slide-show, but it at least tries to give you a sense of how what you did, or did not do, in the world affected everything.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:57 PM on March 17, 2012


I'm not very interested in the controversy of whether this constitutes a controversy.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:57 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've written about ME3 extensively (the endings in particular, so I won't rehash everything here, but I actually enjoyed the entire game. A lot of fans are claiming that the ending(s) are incomplete, or don't provide a neatly-wrapped conclusion, or don't reflect previous choices. I think a good part of that anger stems from self-identification with the hero: we've all found ourselves drawn to characters in movies and books, but few people believe they were the character. RPG's deliberately blur that line, to great emotional effect... and people have a very hard time accepting that at the end you don't get all the answers, and the choices that remain to you may be very sparse, even severe, and none of them good.

The backlash reminds me a lot of the frustration people felt with the Star Wars prequel trilogy (explored very well in The People Vs. George Lucas): the question of emotional ownership of a work vs. creative ownership, and the increasingly grey area between the two.

It's very rare that the conclusion of an episodic work, in which expectations rise with each chapter, will match your wants and dreams and needs, especially in a galaxy as rich and diverse as the Mass Effect coda is. By that time, the epilogue can never match the possibilities inside your head... which is, when you come down to it, part of the point of any artistic endeavour: to make your appreciation larger than the work itself.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:59 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I uninstalled Alpha Protocol shortly after buying it, because I refuse to play a game where you have to decide how you're going to react to what someone is saying before they have finished saying it. To try to maintain the feel of 'movie dialog', they completely fucked up your ability to react appropriately. In real life, you can stall for a bit while you gather your thoughts, but in AP, you have to answer before they're even done talking.

Crap mechanic, a quickly uninstalled game, and a developer on the 'avoid' list.
posted by Malor at 7:59 PM on March 17, 2012


Bora, but Bioware explicitly promised that what you did mattered, and it ultimately didn't, at all. The only thing that mattered was the last five minutes.

BIG SPOILER:

(spoiler space)

(more spoiler space)

They decided they just didn't want to deal with all the complexity, and vaporized the inhabited galaxy so they didn't have to.
posted by Malor at 8:01 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am still hopeful that they released a false ending, especially after the script leak. What is more likely, EA screwed the fanbase and provided a bad ending for the sake of meeting its development schedule, OR that EA released an incomplete game that they can have the players finance in the form of recurring DLC @ $15?
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:02 PM on March 17, 2012


More likely still: BioWare is bad at their jobs.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bora, I'm not sure how others feel, but I actually would have been fine if the series had ended right after Anderson says, "You did good, son." I think I was more disturbed by an ending that didn't seem to make any sense.
posted by brool at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


To try to maintain the feel of 'movie dialog', they completely fucked up your ability to react appropriately.

It's funny, I had exactly the opposite reaction - I love the way it forces you to think on your feet and rely on your understanding of the characters' personalities and intentions instead of letting you sit back and carefully contemplate which response will give the most plusses. In any case, I'm pretty sure there's a pause button.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:05 PM on March 17, 2012


What was impressive to me about the ME series is what also made it so maddeningly frustrating for me. Every decision you made in the past affects the present. But because I lost my save files, ME3 started telling me a story that wasn't mine. It was like, a poor copy, and it killed me every minute I was playing this otherwise great game. There were decisions that my Shepard wanted to make that were impossible, because I didn't have a save file.

As for the ending. Sigh. It didn't really bother me, because I am attracted to bleakness and futility in my art, but I can see how people would feel... cheated. The entire premise of the series wrt gameplay mechanics is completely undone at the end. The idea your choices matter, the main menu screen that lists your "galatic readiness rating" to encourage you to grind in multiplayer, the developer interviews that claimed it would directly affect how your story turned out, were at the end, proven to be bald-faced lies. They pulled the rug from under everyone. Ha ha indeed.

Cheated, as in, they didn't deliver what they explicitly promised. Maybe that better explains why so many fans feel "owed" a better ending, to the point where they would do patently pointless things like demand a new ending...
posted by danny the boy at 8:09 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


It opens up interesting questions, such as: how are video games different than other media? Do consumers of video games have a reasonable right to ask for another ending, or is it akin to asking for modifications to the Mona Lisa? Many spoilers inside.

See the earlier Sopranos thread.

This is about a decline in the artistic use of narrative. Like all things, overuse breeds contempt. Better to piss off everyone than only half the people.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:10 PM on March 17, 2012


Bora Horza Gobuchul, I read the piece that inspired yours a while back (was it posted here or maybe it was link from RPS?), and it was that article that made me really disappointed in Mass Effect. I felt like the author was writing about the kind of universe he wanted it to be, rather than the one that Bioware actually created. All of the Lovecraftian stuff he talked about was pretty much what I wished the series would work with, but by the end of #2 the antagonists were reduced to stock space monsters, in my opinion. Like, I really wish what he wrote about Mass Effect was true, but in my view at least the series didn't even get close to reaching its potential.
posted by palidor at 8:12 PM on March 17, 2012


Oh! I finally realized what this reminds me of. It's Metal Gear Solid 2 all over again, except instead of being motivated by malice, the bait-and-switch is apparently rooted in developer laziness and/or incompetence.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:16 PM on March 17, 2012


Sadly, the Tali face reveal in ME3 was one of the laziest things ever. Think lightly retouched stock photo.

Dammit now I want to play the game even less. I'm not even joking that a grotesque face would be awesome, because it would produce feelings in the player that are like never produced in games, and really no other medium. I mean, you spend all this time with the character, do all the dumb romance stuff, grow to really like the character, and then her face is revealed to be just completely hideous? It's a total lost opportunity to do something creative and original with the medium.
posted by palidor at 8:16 PM on March 17, 2012


man all you gotta do is say "i like trolling/am trollish", you ain't need to dress it up in Art
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:18 PM on March 17, 2012


See at first I thought it was just a trollish idea but I came to understand it as Art
posted by palidor at 8:21 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If no one adds a "Metafilter:" I will be disappointed
posted by palidor at 8:23 PM on March 17, 2012


Metafilter: I will be disappointed
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 PM on March 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: No one adds a "Metafilter"
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:27 PM on March 17, 2012


But because I lost my save files, ME3 started telling me a story that wasn't mine. It was like, a poor copy, and it killed me every minute I was playing this otherwise great game.

Are your playing on PC? There's a savefile editor around that lets you create a ME2 savefile with exactly the decisions you want to import into ME3.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:27 PM on March 17, 2012


... also, you can go to a site that has a wide variety of save files and pick one that's close. Might be even better: other people are better about mining than I was.
posted by brool at 8:35 PM on March 17, 2012


Bora, I'm not sure how others feel, but I actually would have been fine if the series had ended right after Anderson says, "You did good, son."

Well, one way to do it - which would have been very Fallout, would have been to split out the endings there:

SPOILERS
.
.
.
.


Bad: Anderson dies, the Crucible docks, it starts warning up, but before it can fire the Reapers break through the (too weak) fleet, the Normandy is destroyed trying to buy time, the Crucible is destroyed, everyone dies.

Better: Anderson dies, the Crucible docks, and the Reapers launch a massive assault to try to destroy it before it fires. Depending on readiness and fleet strength, the Normandy is either crippled or destroyed buying time for the Crucible to fire. The Reapers' brains are flash-fried, but there are no ships left near enough to Shepard to rescue her before she bleeds out. She gets an update on what's happening from either Hackett or Joker, and as the dead Reapers start to fall into Earth's gravity well and burn up, Shepard dies.

Cut to Shepard's military funeral, with Hackett and surviving crew members, based on choices, power unlock conversations completed and fleet strength/readiness levels. Swelling music, pan up to sky, V/O of Liara's entry on Shepard in her memory box.

Best: Anderson dies, the Crucible docks, the Reapers launch a massive assault etc. The Alliance + aliens line holds, the Reapers are flash-fried, and Shepard is rescued by Joker in the Kodiak and taken to an Alliance hospital ship. The game ends with Shepard in a wheelchair, accompanied by Joker/her romance option and the surviving crew members, at the funeral of Anderson and any dead crew members (decided as before). Zoom out and up to show vast, endless field of grave markers, then pull out further up to Earth orbit. Among the wreckage of the battle, end by rolling the camera onto the wreck of the Normandy.

That's pretty formulaic, but I suspect it's the kind of thing the disappointed people were looking for. Is that about right, disappointed people?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:38 PM on March 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


(Possible spoiler)

A better ending to Mass Effect 3 would be one where you would make the hardest choice: The Crucible could kill all the Reapers, but that would also destroy the Earth. Alternatively, you could use its power to merely protect Earth, leaving the rest of the galaxy to combat the Reaper threat alone. That's more of a real choice than the ending we got.
posted by ymgve at 8:39 PM on March 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


SPOILERS AHOY

I played through all 3 games, and ultimately I thought that the ME3 ending was crap because all 3* choices amounted to basically the same thing (being, a rather unsatisfactory conclusion for at least one of the parties you've grown to care about, unless of course you played it as Captain Spacedick [wish I could remember who coined that phrase in the other mefi threads, props to you whoever you were]). It just didn't feel up to the high bar set by the rest of the game. I read in one of several articles about the ending that the original ending(s) had been changed, so I feel like maybe Bioware just ran out of time?

I know that some fans were complaining that Shepard dies, which, of course s/he was going to die, what are you, an idiot? The whole Shepard as Christ figure thing was telegraphed all along (her/his name is SHEPARD for pete's sake), but did they have to be so on-the-nose about with the old guy telling his kid stories about The Shepard? I guess I almost like to believe the "it was all a indoctrination dream" interpretations of the ending I've heard out there, because other than that, the only remotely satisfactory conclusion to me was the blue one (because the other two amounted to either burning some allies or acquiescing to what the evil(ish) intelligence behind the reapers wanted). Except, of course, it was basically flip-flopping on the whole Illusive Man plot, where suddenly instead of him being a bad guy, he had the right idea all along? Which is to say, I guess, that none of the endings is satisfactory because no matter what you do, you have to do something fairly distasteful (and contrary to much of the decisions/behavior exhibited in the past).

I will say the soundtrack for that game is incredible, and every moment up until the ending felt like both an improvement in gameplay (for the shooty bits, the quest acquisition, etc., but figuring out how to work the orbital strike bit was maddening) and a love letter to the fans who'd been playing since the beginning (Mordin's story arc was particularly good, as was Tali's).

Creating a facebook group to protest the ending seems like mountain-of-molehill territory. I just kind went, "That could've ended better" and moved on. Until, of course, I came here to write this long-ass rant about it.

*I played through both the red and green choices, watched the blue on youtube because I wasn't about to go through all that talking and slow-ass limping a 3rd time.
posted by axiom at 8:39 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will say the soundtrack for that game is incredible, and every moment up until the ending felt like both an improvement in gameplay (for the shooty bits, the quest acquisition, etc., but figuring out how to work the orbital strike bit was maddening) and a love letter to the fans who'd been playing since the beginning (Mordin's story arc was particularly good, as was Tali's).

The really impressive thing, also, is that the game still works if Mordin and Tali died in ME2 - but you are punished by not getting to hang out with the characters again - which is only a punishment if you cared in the first place. Part of me wants to slaughter my entire team in ME2, just to see how different the game is.

Having cheated and peeked at the wiki, I'm interested to see that there is in fact a way to

SPOILERS, OBVS -WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THIS THREAD IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED? IT"S ABOUT THE ENDING OF MASS EFFECT 3!

save Mordin, but only by betraying his quest to make things right - you save his life at the cost of his redemption. Which is pretty heavy.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:58 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damnit man, some of us are still trying to finish Skyrim. Don't you people have jobs?

I'm going to skip most of the comments here since they contain spoilers. But I have to say, I managed to love and actually finish Fallout 3, something I haven't done in a game for a long long time. I have a feeling I'll do the same with Skyrim.

But I couldn't make it through Dragon Age. It just didn't feel as immersive as Bethesda RPGs, if that's the right word for it. Or maybe the leveling and perk system wasn't as satisfying.

Either way, I've got an unopened copy of Mass Effect 1 sitting here, and I'm ready to dive in as FemShep. But will I be as satisfied as FE3 or Skyrim? Or is it basically Dragon Age in space?
posted by formless at 8:59 PM on March 17, 2012


Is that about right, disappointed people?

Well, maybe. Super bad/kinda bad/fairly bad would have been okay, just as long as all the things you'd done made a difference. And I really expected some kind of denouement where you saw what happened in the galaxy afterward. Hell, Chrono Trigger handled this really well, eighteen years ago, in just four megs of ROM. I think there were supposed to be 16 endings, but they couldn't fit three of them into the space they had, so you ended up with 13 variants. And, as others have mentioned, the Fallout series has always done really well in this area, giving you a little montage about just about everyone significant you interacted with in the game.

MEGA SPOILERS:

(spoiler space)

(more spoiler space)

I always expected Shepherd to die. I didn't expect that the entire galaxy would be fried to cinders, no matter what you'd done, that none of your choices would have any actual impact at all. As we saw in the Horizon DLC, the destruction of a mass relay is catastrophic for the containing system, so evaporating all the relays probably means that the bulk of intelligent life in the galaxy was wiped out.

The only real difference at the end is red fire, green fire, or blue fire. That is some shitty storytelling. And that may be why we got almost no scenes of what happened after, since all they'd be showing is charred corpses.
posted by Malor at 9:06 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


formless: ME1 is pretty Dragon-Agey, yes. It's basically that approximate formula. ME2 jettisons most of the RPG mechanics in favor of a shooter with some options to arm and upgrade your squad, and the ability to spend earned points on pre-selected power upgrades. It's much simpler, and I honestly enjoyed it a lot more. That was the most fun I've had with a game in a long time, and I played through it several times over the last couple years. I was enjoying it so much, in fact, that I went back and did 1 run each of Paragon and Renegade through ME1, so that I could see all of ME2.

I don't think I'm going to bother with multiple playthroughs on ME3. I think I'm already done with it.
posted by Malor at 9:10 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


As we saw in the Horizon DLC, the destruction of a mass relay is catastrophic for the containing system, so evaporating all the relays probably means that the bulk of intelligent life in the galaxy was wiped out.

Presumably there are different ways a mass relay can be destroyed, though. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to imagine that shutting off/taking over the Citadel would initiate a safer relay self-destruct than hitting the relay with a giant asteroid...
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:14 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But they didn't do that, they fired the most lethal weapon ever imagined by the most advanced galactic race ever to exist, directly through it. And this is supposed to be less destructive than a chunk of rock hitting the relay?

I don't buy it.
posted by Malor at 9:16 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not broken up about the ending enough to not play Mass Effect 3 through one more time (at least), but I was disappointed at the ending's lack of action/choice and the tiresome philosophy. It felt like Matrix Effect Reloaded 3.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:20 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


> You're high or brainless. Possibly both.

Wow, okay. Flagged!

And you're making it harder, not easier, for people to make and market artistic endeavors.

I think there's a really interesting conversation to be had here about serial narratives, quasi-serial narratives, audience expectations, game development cycles, and RPG story fluidity in the 21st century. And people are having it! Elsewhere, and also right here in this thread!

You, however, seem to be more interested in dismissing anyone who wants to maybe have that conversation with terms like "high" and "brainless." That's awesome. You're awesome. Keep it up, duder. Keep it up.
posted by pts at 9:42 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


(spoilers abound)

98% great game, 2% at the end (I did the sums!) leaving me just not want to play it again. Not just because of the rather boring ending, but because they put the player in frustrating, "ISN'T THIS COOL???" slo-mo-vision. Essentially, a really long cutscene which requires me to hold down a button to slowly nudge Shepard along.

The rest of the game was pretty amazing. The resolution of old characters arcs was mostly fantastic. The $10 Prothean was brilliant. Space Bigotry has never been so fun. Getting out and about to meet crew members on the Citadel was excellent. Screw creating a new ending, I want Bioware to go back and bring ME1 and 2 up to this standard. Walking in on conversations (and other things) was great.

And the shooting was okay, even though getting stuck on walls and corners and waist-high cover items is a bit tedious.

The ending is what it is. I hate it. Babylon 5 did it better. The cries to replace the ending are a bit bothersome. Eh.
posted by dumbland at 9:46 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But these same customers are wholly ignorant about the nature of the business and the greater context of a project of this magnitude. A new ending? You're high or brainless. Possibly both. And you're making it harder, not easier, for people to make and market artistic endeavors.

Have you actually played any Mass Effect? I mean....do you know anything about it at all? Or about BioWare? Or about the ongoing conversation between the developer and the fanbase?

An entirely new ending is unlikely for any number of reasons, but Mass Effect has a long history of ambitious, substantial downloadable content, much of which is released significantly after the debut of the original game. An "epilogue" DLC is absolutely within the realm of possibility, and is what many fans are encouraging BioWare to do, since BioWare has been actively seeking out the feedback and suggestions of players.

Actual players of the game and members of the community probably know more than you about this issue. And many of us DO work in the industry or have connections to it. We might be more optimistic than is entirely wise, but we're not idiots.

As for making it harder to make and market artistic endeavors? Hah. You know...the first 95% of ME3 was an artistic endeavor. A gorgeous, affecting, intelligent one that I'm glad I was able to experience. But that last 5% was sloppy and thoughtless. And I don't really see a problem with calling professional writers out on bad work, particularly when it's obvious that they could have done much better.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:46 PM on March 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


And on a much more cheerful note!

I've got an unopened copy of Mass Effect 1 sitting here, and I'm ready to dive in as FemShep. But will I be as satisfied as FE3 or Skyrim? Or is it basically Dragon Age in space?

I have played about 90% of Dragon Age Origins and have played or watched someone else play all three Mass Effect games. I've basically given up on DAO because I just couldn't keep up an interest in it, but I adore ME. Better characters, more interesting world, and Shepard feels like a fully realized woman instead of a sort of mute cypher. Might be worth giving it a shot!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:53 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole "play multiplayer to help the war effort in single player and oh btw you can use real cash money to buy multiplayer upgrades!" is tacky and money grabbing.

Hated the endings. Last 1/3rd of the game I just fast forwarded through the incredibly cliched dialog. I just wanted to finish the damn game. I'm done with Bioware. I don't think I'm going to waste any more of my money on them.
posted by schwa at 9:55 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


(One of the reasons the Fallout 3 ending is so ridiculous is that you have to go into a high-radiation area, even though you have at least two companions who would be completely unaffected by it and would suffer no consequences. But you're railroaded into making a stupid choice. They fixed that slightly in Broken Steel, but the high point of Fallout 3 DLC is really Point Lookout. And neither of those are as good as the New Vegas DLC, but that's a tale for a different time.)

The ending to the first Mass Effect game is one of the most awesome "shit is getting real" endings I can think of in a video game. Everything from meeting Vigil onwards is freaking amazing. They tried really hard to top it in the second game, and while the music was even better, it doesn't quite top the spectacular ending of the first. So maybe any ending was doomed to fail in comparison.

On the other hand, BioWare/EA have given the player a lot of agency in the game--every player's Shepard makes different choices with consequences, and so this phoning in of a ending is especially jarring.

And it's not as if the game is the only misstep: their last Mass Effect novel was so bad and contained so many errors that they had to apologize for it.

ME3 is an amazing achievement: the multiplayer is arguably more fun than the single-player, there are tie-ins between the game, the multiplayer, and two separate iOS apps. It's the future of gaming. And yet they stepped on their watch with the end.

There's precedent for leaving it be, certainly Lucas with his constant bastardization of Star Wars is one example, but I think they're going to have to address the loads of unhappy people if they want to continue making games in this universe.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:57 PM on March 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


@palidor trolling is inherently reactionary and bourgeois and as such can never truly be art

if you want to know more i can introduce you to some people but i'll have to get permission
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:59 PM on March 17, 2012


(never say never, but yeah)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:00 PM on March 17, 2012


Yeah, even as an over the shoulder gamer (I watch another person play it) I was at once excited by the story line and the animation and thought the ending was HORRIBLE. The entire story line of ME3 sets up an almost hopeful possibility, riffing on the idea that people can be happy and that the definition of people includes giant space bugs, reptile and amphibian things, sentient machines, and so on, and all the possible endings basically not only ignore all your choices up until that point, but reject them and trample all over the lovely emotions of togetherness.

A generally successful Shepard seems to have spent the last few games shepherding disparate races into some sort of coherent order, helping people through their daddy issues (half the loyalty quests of ME2), dealing with deep cultural shame, redemption... paragon or renegade, and so forth. And then whoops- let's blow it all up!

It's also counter to the "rah-rah take back earth and get emotionally involved in this war!" advertising that the game was marketed as and the initial build up with war readiness bars that don't need to be filled all the way. Like buying a food product promising chicken and discovering that it contained spam. Shepherd surviving or not is okay- the game has prepared you for having to decide people die. But if they're going to do the thing that happens regardless of the colour of your ending, they need to explain how it effects all those careful alliances other than indicating they suddenly weren't a priority to the hero after all. I mean this is the (wo)man who took time off saving the galaxy to settle single crew member's pathos sources in the second game, but evidently the little things stopped being relevant.

I'm in the camp this was a rushed ending or the planned ending ran against someone's sensible copyright checking and had to be jettisoned in a hurry or something. Either way, a precedent exists for fixing goofs, a lot of fans are miserable and the reason to do this or not is not artistic integrity as much as whether it's worth the PR to spend the reasonably large amount of money getting it patched.
posted by Phalene at 10:03 PM on March 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also the Kotaku article needs to stop talking about self sacrificing heroes like Christians invented the damn concept. It's not a unique cultural trope, it's as wide spread as Cinderella stories.
posted by Phalene at 10:07 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never played any of the ME games, but this post reminds me of how disappointed I was in the ending of Super Mario Bros. 2.

The first time I beat it, fourth grade me couldn't accept that the entire game was just a dream and and that the image of Mario dreaming was the real ending. I sat in front of the TV for an hour thinking that he would wake up and that it would show me the real ending.

(When I was older and found out that the entire game was originally a completely different title in Japan, it made sense to me.)
posted by Kevtaro at 10:19 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I too found the ending disappointing for many of the reasons mentioned. In part because the rest of the series was so strong. I won't be joining any movements or signing any petitions, but my anticipation for DLC has been severely dampened. I may just give it a pass.

For those considering giving the series a try, I'd strongly recommend checking it out. All three games have been stay up all night good. I don't buy many games, and almost always buy used. I picked up ME 3 on day one based on how much I enjoyed one and two.
posted by calamari kid at 10:32 PM on March 17, 2012


Is it possible that the ending was deliberately terrible, so as to distract people from the fact that the rest of the plot for ME3 is so slapdash and nonsensical? Now people are really pissed at the ending and saying the story was good until then, which it plainly wasn't, and when they crank out ending DLC that'll silence the criticism.
posted by kafziel at 11:04 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I pointed out in the second Mass Effect thread of recent memory:

I came across this description of the plot:
Its like Deus ex and Neon Genesis Evangelion crossover fanfic written by Stephanie Meyer and directed by Uwe Boll

Heh.


So are we going to have a Mass Effect thread every week from now on?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:25 AM on March 18, 2012


So... still worth playing?

liked 1, ok with 2, played 2 without 1 saves, have end of 2 saves - Mordin is alive and well.
posted by porpoise at 12:36 AM on March 18, 2012


The ending was awful. There was some hope it was all some clever ploy to prevent pre-release spoiler leakage (as happened once before) by releasing the actual end as DLC later...however, that horrible ipad app revealed that this terrible end actually IS the end they intended.

It's (IMHO) the best damn game series I've ever played, all the way up until the last 10 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, I like sad endings. I'm not mad that there's not a happy option, or that the ending I was given was "bittersweet." I am kind of upset that the endings, which we were told would not come down to A, B, and C...actually came down to R, G, and B. The only difference between the three is what color the energy beams are that destroy the relays. Disappointing. I wanted to see Tali and the quarians charging into battle with geth by their side, Wrex and the Krogans riding whatchamasaurs into battle, Salarians holding the line, and Garrus guarding my flank. The war assets I've accumulated fighting the war I gathered them to fight. But after 100+ hours of gameplay on ME1/2/3 in the last two months, all I got were these lousy skittles. :|

ME2 was a gaming highlight for me. I knew going into the suicide mission that all of my squadmates, as well as my Shepard, could die while completing it, which added a lovely sense of tension and reality to my endgame experience. I'm not too fussy about the fact that ME2 didn't really further the plot much, or that the endboss (LOL TERMINATOR) didn't make too much sense--I had a great time playing it, and even if ME2 was almost entirely character development...well, it was really good character development and I enjoyed it a lot.

If you talk to fans, you'll generally find that most of us are happy with ME3 up until the end. We can forgive plotholes (to some extent, although it would of course be preferable if they didn't exist) because it's a well fleshed out universe filled with diversity and characters that we've come to shape, know, and love.

The ending was some abomination that threw all of the established themes out the window, opened up a ton of questions, and then proceeded to make absolutely no sense. Your squadmates that were by your side on earth a moment ago? Well for some reason they suddenly are back on your ship and way past pluto a moment or two later. Your squad is generally made up of people you can count on to have your back, so seeing them jetting off on their normandy randomly is kind of weird, given that you'd expect your love interest at least to be at least a little more interested in trying to help you/make sure you survive. There's also the problem of how they got from earth, to pluto, so ridiculously fast--which is also rather confusing. Also: why are they running from the battle? It's totally out of character for them to turn tail and run. They didn't know the relay would explode, but maybe somehow they did, and didn't want to be stuck in a planetary system with a fleet of hungry krogan low on rations (krogan being known for eating anything available)?

There's a lot that's wrong with the ending. But the worst part for me is that my Shepard is very pro-AI. I've stood up countless times for Legion, when the Quarians were wanting to take him apart. He is my friend and ally, and provides an interesting insight into what synthetic life might come to value and hold dear. I brokered a peace between the centuries old conflict between the Quarians and the Geth, despite the former's every intention of destroying a new form of life that had committed no crime greater than coming to recognize its sentience. EDI, my ship's computer, had done nothing but help us and try to understand us.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 focus a lot on the challenges of coexisting peacefully side by side in a diverse universe. Mass Effect 3 focuses on finally attempting to remedy those differences and uniting the galaxy together in the face of a deadly threat.

In the last 10 minutes, this is all thrown out. My Shepard gets beamed up to the citadel and some weird starchild AI tells her that he made the reaper machines so that synthetic life wouldn't kill organics. What? How does killing organics with machines save organics from machines? Derp derp. They really shoulda just kept to the lovecraftian theme from ME1. Worse, he goes on to assert that synthetic life/AI will inevitably try to kill organics, so that's why the cycle must continue. If this were ME1, sure, ok, whatever. But a lot of ME2 and ME3 up to that point had showcased the morning war between the Quarians and their synthetic creation, the geth. And it sure as hell wasn't the geth going around attempting genocide--if anything, it's been the organics doing it. MULTIPLE TIMES, I might add, even when it was in their best interests NOT to go attack the peaceful robots keeping to themselves (because evil robots not keeping to themselves were invading the galaxy).

I thought the point was that synthetic life could be as varied and diverse as organic life. Tolerance, you know? It was a really cool theme that I thought they had going. But no, apparently all my synthetic friends are just inevitably destined to become organicidal monsters.

I don't want to control the reapers, or merge with them. I want to blow them the hell up! We fight or we die! Wasn't that how it was supposed to be? (There is the destroy option, but everything about that is nonsensical, too.) Where's my renegade interrupt to tell this dumb hologram to piss off already!?

In conclusion:
Citadel randomly/conveniently dragged above Earth? Well....ok.
Photoshopped image of Tali made from a generic stock image? Eh, whatever.

OH BY THE WAY ROBOTS ARE EVIL AND THEY WILL ALWAYS KILL YOU SO YOU SHOULD KILL THEM LOL BTW PICK UR FAV COLOR OF SKITTLE

Not cool.

The geth suddenly embracing reaper tech when they wanted to "forge their own path" before was kind of odd as well. (I understood why they did at first, with the Quarians attacking--I just don't know why they wanted to keep it when it was no longer necessary and the existential threat had resolved.) It was a really admirable stance to take when the rest of the galaxy accepted the citadel, mass relays, etc, without questioning. I could have overlooked it, since I found Legion's storyline end to be really touching ("does this unit have a soul?")...but I wonder if it wasn't just thrown in so that the red ending would randomly necessitate destroying the geth too. Huh.

It's really great that the indoctrination theory exists, because even if it wasn't intended, it at least has let me come to some sort of peace in my head about how the story "ends." I don't really know if Bioware WILL fix the ending (and it is AN ending, not the 16 they were bragging about), but it'd be really great if they did.

99% of the game is great and as expected from the ME franchise. The remaining 1% is so blindingly awful that it's all you'll ever hear talked about ever again in conjunction with this particular series.

tl;dr RIP Marauder Shields. I will forever honor your sacrifice.
posted by Estraven at 12:39 AM on March 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


ME3 was 98% extraordinary and 2% terrible. It is quite unfortunate that the terrible 2% was the last 2% of the entire series. But I'm still glad I got to experience moments like Tali's emerrrrrrgency induction port.


**** SPOILERS ****

WinnipegDragon: Destruction was right out. I had commited to the Geth, and there was no way that EDI was going down. Control? Nope, my Shepard would never do it, and the Reapers were far too dangerous to give control of them to anyone, even Shepard.

Synthesis was my choice, even though I wanted the Reapers gone. I chose it because it was the option that preserved the most life in the universe


So you abandoned everything you and Anderson and the rest had fought for the whole series (destroying the Reapers) and decided that one of the galaxies greatest villains, Saren, was right after all? And that you were the bad guy for killing him? Remember, the synthesis of machine and organic as the next step in human evolution is what Saren was trying to accomplish. And you killed him and/or talked him into suicide for it.

Everyone remembers that the Illusive Man was fighting for the control option but everyone seems to forget that Saren was for synthesis. And there is no way that is an accident.

Shepard was always fighting for destruction of the Reapers. Saren was fighting for synthesis. Illusive Man was fighting for control. Choosing anything but destruction is a Reaper victory in the long (or short) run. Synthesis might as well turn you all into husks.

Anyway, while the vast majority of the evidence for the so-called "Indoctrination Theory" is the equivalent of biblical numerology conspiracy nutjobbery it is impossible to get around the fact that the two options presented in a positive light by the Deus ex machina at the end were the two options pursued by the two non-Reaper antagonists of the series, and the option presented in the most negative light was what Shepard and his allies had fought and died for the entire time.

That was interesting and not a coincidence, I think, but the ending still blew technicolor chunks.
posted by Justinian at 12:40 AM on March 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


oh wow I typed a lot haha

porpoise: if you like Mordin (he's also a favorite of mine), you'll probably like at least part of ME3. His character arc was handled extremely well.
posted by Estraven at 12:42 AM on March 18, 2012


For those of you who deriding the First World Problem aspect of this controversy then I think you have to understand how bad the endings were. I didn't play the game (hate Bioware) but my SO was heartbroken when she realised any action she took made no difference whatsoever.

Imagine McNulty being given "24 hours to clean up the city".
posted by fullerine at 12:43 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yo dawg, I heard you don't want synthetics to kill organics, so I made synthetics to kill organics so organics can't make synthetics to kill organics.
posted by Justinian at 12:43 AM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I haven't played ME3, nor ME2, nor Alpha Protocol. I've played Mass Effect and both the original Deus Ex and Human Revolution. Spoilers may follow.

Assignations of familiarity aside, I think the nature of choice in gaming is a really difficult thing to define well; for me, it's always going to be torn apart along the axes of continuity and flexibility.

Continuity is simple: Our choices are informed by narrative. What we do now is in part influenced by what came before, and consequence is fitted as result. I think lots of people play games to tell stories and assign motivations to the people they play; our protagonists become invested with the weight of our mutual history.

Flexibility, on the other hand, is choice informed less by the internal narrative of the game and more by the external narrative of the player. Deus ex machina comes to the fore as we take the world of the game and use it for our entertainment. The goal is less about narrative and more about escape and using the game on our own terms.

The difficulty lies in combining the two; making our choices in the game meaningful, as well as making sure the consequences of our choices don't entrap us (I'm looking at you, STALKER. Get out of here)... and then, taking that combination and trying to make sure it doesn't break player immersion.

Look at the choice architecture in Human Revolution - you get to the end, there's three buttons and a switch (possibly fewer depending on who's been capped). You get to pick a button and watch a cutscene. That's flexibility right there. Want to experience the full breadth of the game? Reload from save, walk back into the big button-room, and choose another ending. Is there continuity? Sure, in a way. kill someone and their button won't be there.

Human Revolution has both the continuity and the flexibility, but the final synthesis of the two broke my immersion. If you're going to make choices, and they're darn big choices, it needs to be more than 'kill boss, walk into next room, pick ending'.

I suspect that something similar is going on here with the ending to the ME series. Since the first game, one of the overarching messages about the game is that choices will have weight. The things you did in ME1 will affect ME2 will come to fruition in ME3.

From what's being said, I gather that this hasn't happened. It's not a matter of 'oh no gamers did not like ending to game', it's more that there's been the expectation of a strong participation, a benevolent patron extending a hand to us and saying 'Here's this glorious thing I've built and you can plant your flowers in it and they will be the garden you and I have built.'

And so you go merrily about your way, planting your dahlias and your poppies and putting down mulch and reading up on landscaping and things (I do not know plants but this is also not a very deep metaphor)

Then your patron kicks you out of the greenhouse and makes you watch through the glass as he pisses napalm, dusts the flower beds with depleted uranium, and plants nettles.

Oh, and he'll let you into the new greenhouse in a few weeks. Once you pony up fifteen bucks.
posted by mikurski at 12:47 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The ending is terrible on a great many levels not simply for railroading us into essentially one ending with three different color schemes. I keep trying to summarize all the ways it is terrible and having to start over again and again to expand the list. It's that bad.

So I'll simply list one additional way it is terrible; we do not in fact find out what happened to anyone in the Mass Effect universe as a result of our actions and the end of the series. We do not know what came of our previous choices. We do not know who lives or dies. We don't know which civilizations were saved or destroyed. The entire galaxy may have been sterilized, or it may "only" have been damaged significantly. Some of our companions may be slowly starving to death. Or most of their entire races may be starving to death. But we're not sure.

We get almost no answers to anything. The few answers we do get are completely nonsensical and full of plot holes and lead to even more questions like "are my closest friends and loved ones really going to starve to death slowly and painfully?".

And so on. The ending would have been better if it had just cut to black suddenly and said "GAME OVER" since it would have answered just as many questions (ie none) but raised fewer additional ones.
posted by Justinian at 12:55 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


** SPOILERS AND TRIGGER WARNING **

Somehow, and I don't know how, Tali couldn't convince the fleet to not attack the newly upgraded Geth. They were slaughtered. Amidst the backdrop of the Quarian fleet (the entire Quarian species) crashing in flaming piece through the atmosphere; Tali turned to me, took off her mask to look me in the eye, then fell backward off a cliff. I choose to give the Geth freedom, and the 'Live-free-and-die-hard' ending really whacked me in the nads a second time. Fuck, I've never been so attached to a playthough of a game. IPR Tali, wish your people weren't programmed to be so antagonistic.

** END SPOILERS **

That said, I actually enjoyed the ending. Shepard knew, or at least mine did, that this was his Hill to Die For. I will sing his saga well.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:11 AM on March 18, 2012


Or, after having had way, waaaay too much to drink, I could some that up better as: if you are dedicated to free will and self determination in an aggregate sense, the right hand ending was the absolute best you could have hoped for. Not what you wanted, but what had to be done.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:15 AM on March 18, 2012


From what I'm hearing in this thread, the failure of narrative here isn't one of imagination, but of articulation. The ending isn't sufficiently or appropriately explained to the viewer. This nails it:

How does killing organics with machines save organics from machines? Derp derp.

This is the logic of the cull. We ourselves do it to "lesser" species, for their "own good", every year. The Catalyst is helping us like we help deer, or seals, or bunnies: because if it wasn't there to intervene, we'd all be massacred by some nasty predator species, and possibly exterminated. It's unfortunate that the ME3 writers didn't make themselves understood to a broader audience.... because I really, really like what they've done.
posted by mek at 1:44 AM on March 18, 2012


Now I've been mostly avoiding spoilers and have only skimmed quickly over the spoiler-rich posts above, but... did I see the word "starchild" in there?? OMG. The end is not only worse than I had imagined, it's worse than I could have imagined.

I also just realised (although this was probably blindingly obvious to everyone else):
E+4 = H
D-4 = A
I+4 = L

It sounds like the only way improve this game is to play the whole way through as Chawncy Shepard.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:54 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


mek: "From what I'm hearing in this thread, the failure of narrative here isn't one of imagination, but of articulation. The ending isn't sufficiently or appropriately explained to the viewer."

Uh, no not at all. The failure was when they told you that your actions mattered, for the entirety of the 3 games, and then at the very last second pulled the football away and was like, NOPE NO AGENCY FOR YOU!

There is no last minute harrison ford voiceover that is gonna make hearing the equivalent of "oh it was all just a crazy dream!" feel genuine or appropriate.
posted by danny the boy at 2:10 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Back in 2003 I was hired to write the end scenario of a tabletop RPG called Mage: The Ascension. My ending also featured the protagonists talking to a Godlike Magic Kid (the posthuman clone offspring of Tycho Brahe) and being given a pivotal choice. Writing this stuff is tough, and way tougher in an electronic game where everything has to be tightly decision tree'd. (In tabletop RPGs, you have an unlimited number of alternate endings labelled "Your shit gets fucked up" that are *still* interesting. In electronic games, you just load from a save point.) My ending was fairly well received, and I can't fault ME3 for tackling a tough job. However, when I was hacking at my own assignment I took advantage of a couple of things:

1) First off, if you're doing Ragnarok, you need to make it pretty damned clear that it's coming. There's a place for no-win scenarios and constrained choices, but players need to be properly prepared for it. White Wolf (Mage's publishers) did this job for me. The "but the Mass Relays blow up!" bit is a little much, isn't it? If foreshadowing determines that something was going to happen to them, or that any choice was going to generally be a bad one, you can live with it. Mage's sister game Werewolf did this wonderfully by making it perfectly clear that you *were* absolutely going to lose, but that your deeds mattered nonetheless.

2) You need to empathize with other characters at the pivotal moment. Nobody really cares who the Godlike Magic Kid is, so you shouldn't really be forced to make a final decision based on a relationship with him, however brief (in my case, the GMK was around for the penultimate act, but then takes off). In my case, I grabbed a long-time villain with a motive anybody could understand: He was afraid to die. He was a sonofabitch, but he was still afraid to die. In the ME series you build all these relationships, but none of them are in the chamber with you. Why don't the Reapers eat your boyfriend and use him to communicate? Why don't you download Saren? Failing that, why isn't there a figure that represents a general human desire? Instead, we've got an intellectual problem that doesn't have much emotional traction.

3) You need to push a credible big idea that can be respected, even if people don't agree with it. I think there's a dialogue problem in ME3 where GMK is saying, "Nobody can defy ecology," but gets too particular about Reapers and setting bullshit in a way that makes the determinism feel false. I think you sort of need to build up from common ideas into the big ideas, then go down into particulars. What if GMK talks about predatory die-back? What if the game establishes early that the Mass Relays represent the use of a finite energy/information resource such as networked FTL consciousness versus FTL interstellar travel? The nerd public's understanding of speculative artificial life is a bit bigger than the Borg and Cybermen these days, and the idea that free will is a function of biological life doesn't carry that much traction. Me, I went with a mix of "You need to be compassionate no matter what," and "Egoism creates bastards; absolute egoism creates bastards absolutely." These were not sophisticated ideas but people get them, even if they don't like them.

I do think some of the critiques levelled at ME3's endings are kind of lousy because they represent the biases of SF fandom for technopolist perpetual monocultures more than any inherent problems. I certainly think it's not necessarily bad that the game is biased against AI. Unfortunately, its arguments are bad not because those arguments are wrong, but because they show up late and, like most portrayals of such (like Deus Ex:HR) do not replicate the sophistication and relevance of real arguments against perpetual technopolies. That a game can present strong romantic relationships and other human pleasures, and then act like it's about the crude balance of power between fleshly folks and machines without calling out qualitative differences . . . well, it's not great.

However, keep in mind that this is all post-game armchair quarterbacking directed at a game where the writers probably had limited time, space and options to work in, so in many ways, anything to be said about it is probably unfair. Given the role of writing in electronic game design, however, the best thing you can probably do to get better endings is to tell companies that writers need more time, money and ability to influence the game's gears -- that you believe this stuff is really important.
posted by mobunited at 2:17 AM on March 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


In the "analysis" post:

As one who despises the endings, I'm hoping the suits tell the visionaries that the customers are loud enough and numerous enough to swollow their pride and get them out of this storm.

This is why you get shit. How do you think this works, exactly? Here's what the "suits" think:

1) Written content is the hardest thing to estimate ROI on. It sure *feels* expensive for something non-technical.
2) But it's the easiest thing to see negative qualitative feedback from. Therefore:
3) It's not really an asset, and possibly a liability, so:
4) Cut back! They'll shoot up levels without you needing to come up with a good reason anyway.
posted by mobunited at 2:31 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I certainly think it's not necessarily bad that the game is biased against AI. Unfortunately, its arguments are bad not because those arguments are wrong, but because they show up late

The anti-AI theme begins early in the first game.
posted by mek at 2:33 AM on March 18, 2012


The anti-AI theme begins early in the first game.

My bad; I should have said some set of words that was half theme and half argumentative position. The Reapers in ME1 could pretty much be any kind of body horror bad guys -- they're just kind of Borgy, with some Dalek chucked in there too. The series seems to struggle with more substantial differences between the organic and artificial because frankly, the implicit social ideal is that ol' techno-monoculture. When you live in a world without cultural initiations, language differences, folk beliefs or any other markers of difference, arguing that it's where people have "freedom of choice," compared to AIs looks like a joke. Who cares if everyone has the freedom to wear some fucking jumpsuit or other?
posted by mobunited at 2:54 AM on March 18, 2012


Nonono, the anti-AI theme is way deeper than that, right from the get-go. The rogue AI subquest in the Citadel is what I'm specifically referring to, but the general Geth characterization also applies. It's clear from the very beginning of Mass Effect that AI is highly politicized and dangerous. And, most importantly, our creation.

The question "what is the social ideal espoused by Mass Effect" is.... worth further analysis. Good question. I think it's very troubling, actually...
posted by mek at 3:10 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) Written content is the hardest thing to estimate ROI on. It sure *feels* expensive for something non-technical.
2) But it's the easiest thing to see negative qualitative feedback from. Therefore:
3) It's not really an asset, and possibly a liability, so:
4) Cut back! They'll shoot up levels without you needing to come up with a good reason anyway.


Interestingly, this time Bioware had a heap of quantitative data about how people played ME2 to work with - including things like preferred classes and time played, going right down to dialogue choices and which conversations were skipped. Here's an IGN article about how they gathered the data. It sounds like they have a fair idea where the ROI is, and people who start playing Shepard as a male soldier then never bother to finish the game are a disproportionate part of it.

Given the role of writing in electronic game design, however, the best thing you can probably do to get better endings is to tell companies that writers need more time, money and ability to influence the game's gears -- that you believe this stuff is really important.

This is definitely true for a lot of games, but in the case of ME3 they've had literally years to come up with a decent end to the last act. No, I think the problems lie elsewere: a deliberate decision to set the lowest common denominator at the level of a 13-year-old Call of Duty player, and a team of writers who just aren't really all that good at SF.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:14 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


With the way the second game went, how can anyone be surprised that the series wasn't ended well? I mean, I'm not in any rush to play the game mostly because they basically abandoned the kind of overall story I was hoping they'd tell. Granted there's a lot to enjoy in the series, but at the end of the day you knew it was all going to end up with a pretty un-thoughtful denouement, didn't you? It feels like the writing in these games only aspire to the level of Hollywood action movies sometimes, and I find myself enjoying pretty much everything but the machinations of the plot, which mostly frustrates me. I guess it's really that in my experience it seems like games tell stories a lot better through world-building than they do through a linearly developing plot. And when they try so hard like Mass Effect does, and even worse make promises about the player being able to influence the development of the plot, it's so much more frustrating that they can't quite reach whatever level of thoughtfulness and sophistication you might expect.
posted by palidor at 3:40 AM on March 18, 2012


Well, I don't think quantitative study is necessarily going to hit it. If more people follow one decision tree than the others it does not follow that more of your trees should be like that one. There's a point when you have to interview human beings and make a decision. They probably did, but I think there might have been a bias against it in the face of robust quantitative tools. This is common in the modern content business.

In terms of how much time thy had, I have a feeling that the end is the result of developmental bull sessions that ended with a laundry list thrown at the writers in the middle of the process, and they were scheduled within the bigger workflow, not in a place where they could change said list for story reasons. Bioware has pretty high standards for its writers, but they can only perform so well under a software development process, and there's a bias in thinking that this less technical stuff really should be folded into that. When I've done electronic games work a lot of the content is basically done, and the job is really to stitch it together with words and excuses for scenarios. Now big projects have head writers who can do a little more steering, but it's still not the linear page to pixel deal that people might imagine, though maybe it should be more like that, at least when people come to care about the world.
posted by mobunited at 3:40 AM on March 18, 2012


A Thousand Baited Hooks: "This is definitely true for a lot of games, but in the case of ME3 they've had literally years to come up with a decent end to the last act. No, I think the problems lie elsewere: a deliberate decision to set the lowest common denominator at the level of a 13-year-old Call of Duty player, and a team of writers who just aren't really all that good at SF."

I think the departure of one of the lead writers during/after ME2 didn't help, either. The whole "dark energy" thing ME2 introduced that reportedly would have been the reason for the Reapers presence/existence was quietly dropped, and the whole thing stinks of New Lead Writer Guy discarding the previous guy's idea just because he didn't like it much personally, even though he didn't have anything good to replace it with. There are a lot of great writers on the Mass Effect team (I tweeted my thanks to Liara's writer; I thought her arc was excellent) but Lead Writer Guy isn't one of them.

The AI is inherently destructive to organic life idea runs 100% contrary to one of the main themes of the series, that any life that is mistreated will rise up, and that old grudges can and will tear the galaxy apart. The Rachni, the Krogan and the Geth were all used, abused, and then made war upon and all, over the course of the three games, brought to some kind of closure regarding their treatment and their future. And yet the starchild insisted that somehow the Geth and other artificial life were just inherently evil and the only way to end the cycle is either to kill them all, enslave them all, or force everyone in the galaxy to be transformed against their will. Even aside from the principles of your personal Shepard (mine was 100% pro-AI independence) it was a betrayal of one of the founding principles of the story. I wanted Shep to pick that kid up like a rugby ball and pitch him into the beam, but she didn't even argue with the kid because Lead Writer Guy is in charge now and he says AI is evil and will eat you!

Also, ending the entire series on Buzz Aldrin and a child actor, neither of whom delivered their lines remotely convincingly, after filling the game with superb performances from dozens of actors? Nice.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:05 AM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have spent such a ridiculous amount of time with the Mass Effect games that I'll weigh in here. I did not especially like the ending, but I didn't think it was the betrayal that so many people hold it to be. Spoilers ahead from here.

Seriously, spoilers.

Ok. I think that what people are reacting to is that no matter what you do, the mass relays are destroyed at the end. If you're reading this and haven't played the games, the mass relays are what allow ships to travel bete=ween star systems in the same galaxy in a reasonable amount of time. The choices that Shepard makes at the end are different choices, but an unavoidable outcome of all of them is that the links between systems are destroyed irrevocably, effectively dooming every known species to a millenial dark age of absence and isolation.

I think, whether they say so or not, that's largely what people are reacting so negatively to. The endings otherwise are fairly satisfactory. The problem is that everyone gets fucked at the end, and the games have set us up to believe that even at the cost of Shepard's life, she makes it better. (Yes, she. FemShep is the only Shep.) For the first and only time in the series, it doesn't end ok even though Shepard is there. For games that have been wish fulfillment to this point, that's pretty jarring.

I actually quite liked the Reapers as a reaction to the idea that mistreated and subservient races revolt, because the three games set up the idea of the Reapers as a really bad thing, and so to find out that their rationale is that people don't want to cope with revolt makes absolute sense. It doesn't justify the excess of the Reapers, but the excess of organic/synthetic war doesn't justify their creation either.

I don't love the replication of the Deus Ex tripartite solution, but it is somewhat justified in that Shepard has about ten minutes to live, and therefore one last choice to make. As I said, I didn't like the ending. But the entire game was a coming home to roost of various choices I'd made or not made in these games since 2005. Most of those consequences were small and barely noticeable longterm, but if you remember the choices, then those delayed outcomes are quite profound.

Above all, ME3 is a love letter to its fanbase. I don't know about you guys, but I was choking back tears the whole time I was amidst the London rubble, saying my inevitable farewells to the people I'd loved and saved, and hearing their gratitude for my choices. There's no ending in which Shepard just dies. There are many endings in which Shepard. in one way or another, gives herself over as she always has for the lives she loves too well to let finish. The paths don't matter except curiosity; the ability to make that choice and to accept the consequences make that Shepard my Shepard.

I'm about 22 hours into a new playthrough of Mass Effect 1, because I want to know what this Shepard will do and will have to live with. If that isn't the mark of a fantastic story, you can keep your acclaimed paragraphs. I have found a thing that moves me, more than once, and I'm still so interested in what happens next.
posted by Errant at 4:37 AM on March 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


So you abandoned everything you and Anderson and the rest had fought for the whole series (destroying the Reapers) and decided that one of the galaxies greatest villains, Saren, was right after all? And that you were the bad guy for killing him? Remember, the synthesis of machine and organic as the next step in human evolution is what Saren was trying to accomplish. And you killed him and/or talked him into suicide for it.

Everyone remembers that the Illusive Man was fighting for the control option but everyone seems to forget that Saren was for synthesis. And there is no way that is an accident.


To be fair, the difference between Shepard and both the Illusive Man and Saren is that Shepard is not indoctrinated. Neither of them were making the choice Shepard is, because they are both under Reaper control. They aren't really going for Control or Synthesis - they are both going for what the Reapers were built for - i.e. the harvesting of the mature species.

(It's hardly accidental that both can be persuaded to take one last act as a free being, and kill themselves - they have become agents of the annihilation of their species, and their only final option as free beings is self-annihilation.)

One of the possibilities in the conversation between the child and Shepard which wasn't really developed was the idea that Shepard could have convinced it that its paradigm was simply _wrong_ - that this cycle was different because (if Shepard managed to save the Quarians and the Geth) synthetic life has made peace with organic life, and Shepard owes his cycle-breaking presence on the Catalyst command deck to organic and synthetic life working together - Geth and Quarian, Joker and EDI, organic and AI.

I think that can certainly be implicit in the choice you're making though, and in the child's statement that the fact Shepard is there is a sign that the Reaper model is not going to work any more - not least because the Geth are now a sentient synthetic race that will survive the Harvesting with their culture intact and be able to bootstrap the next round of organic races - the Yagh and whoever else is around - from day one to fight the Reapers.

Assuming that the destruction of the relays is not also wiping out life in the systems around them (which I think we have to assume it is not, in narrative term), it puts synthetic life in a really interesting position. The Geth could become hugely important, because they can survive long journeys to reestablish contact between the planets without food or oxygen. I can see the logic in destroying the relays, though - or at least shutting them down. They are designed to shape the development of the races that discover them: even without the Reapers coming back to harvest every 50,000 years, they still shape the way races develop. Which again comes back to the themes of the Geth and the Krogans, and even EDI's painful birth on Luna - that if you advance a race for your own purposes, it is likely to bite you later.

The Geth wanted smarter and more effective servants, the Salarians wanted an army, the Reapers wanted societies built along technological lines that they understood and could therefore control and destroy. Part of Shepard's angst in 2 is whether he is human any more, and whether he can be controlled by his synthetic elements the way Saren was controlled by his "upgrades" - which becomes exacerbated when it becomes clear that Cerberus have been using Reaper technology, and then are subverted by the Reapers, and therefore that Shepard may in fact be part Reaper tech, and being guided towards achieving the Reaper's goals.

Deactivating the relays is a big thing to do, and one with far-reaching consequences, but it isn't out of left field.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Shepard: no organic has stood where you are standing right now. Your cycle has achieved what no other cycle has ever done; maybe there is hope! So your options are a) kill almost everyone; b) kill almost everyone; or c) kill almost everyone and fill the survivors with bits of Reaper changing them utterly. I'm sure the next cycle will go just as well as this one did!"

Also, mixing everyone in the galaxy together puts technology in organics and organic material in synthetics, right? But the Reapers are already part-organic, so how does that change things? I imagine them witnessing the synthesis ending and flying into space expecting to die or be changed, and then when nothing happens to them they do a collective shrug, break out the Reaping cannons, and land again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:45 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Star Child: Now, unless I've COMPLETELY misunderstood the situation, and do tell me if I have (pause for mostly-dead Shepard to weakly try to raise a hand, which it doesn't notice), your primary concern here is safeguarding the WELLBEING OF THE REAPERS. That's good, mine is too. They're pretty great!

So. Here are three options, two of which keep our metal space cuttlefish friends TOTALLY FINE AND DANDY! Also one which kind of messes them up, don't know why that was set as default by the people who designed this thing, don't press that one, eh? Off you go, into the beam, HEY HARBINGER HOW'S IT GOING

Harbinger: BLAAAAART

(I mean really in two of the endings but particularly synthesis, the reapers are FINE. Where do they even go? I like to think they just hang around the Earth, sending the occasional lonely signal. HEY ARE YOU GUYS HOLDING A GRUDGE DON'T BE MEAN OKAY WE'RE ALL ORGANO-SYNTHETICS NOW RIGHT. GUYS. GUYS. HEY. AWW MAN.)

I've actually come to the conclusion that Synthesis is the most complete and happy ending I could have wanted, because it makes it abundantly clear that Harbinger is A-OK. Bioware fans : Tali :: Me : Harbinger.

posted by emmtee at 6:13 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL... OF FRIENDSHIP.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:18 AM on March 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL... OF FRIENDSHIP."

DEAR PRINCESS HARBINGER
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:32 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, a letter from the princess!

BLAAAAAAAART
posted by emmtee at 6:42 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It sounds like they have a fair idea where the ROI is, and people who start playing Shepard as a male soldier then never bother to finish the game are a disproportionate part of it.


That's true of pretty much any game longer than ten minutes, though. Look at the achievements on a Steam game and you'll the numbers drop steadily from whatever the game's introductory achievement is. Take Arkham City, for example: 87.5% of owners have started the game (indicated by the achievement for putting on the Batsuit). 43% have finished it. You'd think the number would be higher for the shorter indie games but it's really not. Bastion: 18 percent. Cave Story+: Twelve percent.

People buy games and don't finish them more often than not, and yet developers manage to not use this as an excuse to make their games suck.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:46 AM on March 18, 2012


Wait, sorry, Bastion is 42%. I forgot it has two separate ending achievements. And I'm happy the majority picked the proper one.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:48 AM on March 18, 2012


Shepard: no organic has stood where you are standing right now. Your cycle has achieved what no other cycle has ever done; maybe there is hope!

I think that's a possibly misguided praphrase, though. What it says is: "You have choice. More than you deserve. The fact that you are standing here, the first organic, proves it. But it also proves my solution doesn't work any more."

I don't think the Catalyst thinks that Shepard's presence means there is hope. I think it's saying that it shows that wiping out the apex organic races every 50,000 years isn't going to work any more - because of the Geth, because of the closing of the Citadel relay (and thus the impossibility of a decapitation strike, and the likelihood of a long war which will destroy organic life _anyway_ as it is uplifted to serve as cannon fodder - which happened to the Krogan against the Rachni and is clearly going to happen to the Yahg if the war drags on). Because of Shepard buying time by defeating Sovereign, and because of Liara - who has used that time to create a comprehensive document of advice for dealing with the Reapers.

It's pretty clear, I think, that the Catalyst is a primordial AI created by a race that was wiped out by synthetics, along with most organic life in the galaxy (or all organic life in another galaxy), and the solution it came up with was based on that. Or that it was tasked by its creators to ensure that synthetics could never wipe out organics, and came up with a solution that involved destroying its creators. In short, it and the Reapers it controls are zealots - they believe in their solution to the problem, at the cost of being able to consider other possibilities.

The method of saving organics from themselves - shaping their development using the mass relays and the Citadel, then wiping out their apex species before they can develop a synthetic race able to supplant them - is now a bust. The Crucible has given the Catalyst new ways to solve the problem, but it is limited by its programming - it can't activate any of them itself, because it, and the Reapers, are a tool designed for a mechanism that no longer works. The Reapers have already been defeated: Shepard just has to work out how to prevent the (now pointless) extermination of her cycle's organic apex races.

The Catalyst could, of course, have just said that by becoming powerful enough to beat the Reapers - even at one cycle's remove - organics have demonstrated they can hold their own, and shut the Reapers and itself down - but that would have been pretty anticlimactic, and a bit Babylon 5. A bit more Babylon 5.

(Also, it's pretty clear that the mass relay destructions aren't wiping out the other systems as they self-destruct - or else the Normandy would crashland on a scorched rock, apart from anything else. You'd really have to be reaching for reasons to hate the ending to maintain that, and I think it has enough issues not to add tenuous ones. Destroying the relays is a symbol of the sentient races - synthetic and organic - being given self-determination in building a future free of shaping by the Catalyst. Albeit rather a showy one.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:14 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "(Also, it's pretty clear that the mass relay destructions aren't wiping out the other systems as they self-destruct - or else the Normandy would crashland on a scorched rock, apart from anything else. You'd really have to be reaching for reasons to hate the ending to maintain that, and I think it has enough issues not to add tenuous ones."

Only if the Normandy reached the relay at the other end of its journey, which isn't what's depicted on-screen. It looks far more likely that the giant travelling nonsense explosion caught them partway and they were knocked out into a system that doesn't have a relay (and which coincidentally lies on a direct line between two connected systems). But then, it's not shown why the Normandy is in transit anyway -- given the time it takes to get from Earth to Pluto they'd have had to set off straight after picking up Garrus and Liara and the others pretty much the moment Harby's beam hits the ground, which is totally out of character for Joker and the rest of the Normandy crew -- and I'm starting to think that whole sequence is just a ham-handed allegorical fart intended to show that, despite the cycle being over and the galaxy entering (in the words of one of the writers) a new dark age, there is Hope for Life.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:28 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only if the Normandy reached the relay at the other end of its journey, which isn't what's depicted on-screen. It looks far more likely that the giant travelling nonsense explosion caught them partway and they were knocked out into a system that doesn't have a relay (and which coincidentally lies on a direct line between two connected systems).

That would make even less sense, though, because it would involve sudden deceleration from mass relay speeds outside a mass relay, which would have destroyed them even more than having their ship fall apart in mid-relay transit would have destroyed them (i.e. totally) or the blast from an exploding mass relay would have destroyed them if they were exploding as they did in Arrival (i.e. also totally).

The Normandy part probably only makes sense if (a) Hackett orders an evacuation of the Sol System when the Crucible starts firing (on the precautionary principle), and the beam moving across the Mass Relays takes effect much more slowly than it looks or (b) it's Shepard's dying hallucination, imagining the passing of the age of the Mass Relays (as shown by the destruction of the coolest ship in the galaxy) but the survival of organic/sythetic/organosynthetic life. So, yes, pretty much as you say.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:38 AM on March 18, 2012


(Well, dying or maybe not dying, depending on your ending. But definitely hallucination. Given the preponderance of dream sequences up to that point, it wouldn't be wholly surprising.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:48 AM on March 18, 2012


Some amount of speculation from everyone!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2012


I'm disappointed in the end. The rest was good; even the tragic parts -- which was most f it, seemingly. The articles in response that are saying "oh the fans just want a happy ending" don't track with my experience. I don't need happy. Arguably, with the last image I got, I had a happy ending. I'd just like clarity.

I read something a friend saved that was posted on a PA forum briefly by a ME writer, who said that while most of the game the entire writing team vetted the plot together, for the end it was just the lead writers holed up in a room, kept under wraps until everything was recorded. There was no other input. Given what we got, that reads plausibly to me. So it looks to me like the end sequence is a real-life example of failing to use your squadmates adequately.
posted by rewil at 8:23 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some amount of speculation from everyone!

We are all grasping at emergency induction ports!
posted by rewil at 8:25 AM on March 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I don't know what the fuck you guys are talking about with an Anti-AI theme in Mass Effect. Are you not solving the social and political puzzles in an AI-unbiased way? In my game I managed to resolve the differences between the geth and the Quarians and they are working together against the Reapers in the end game. Also EDI has always been an ally.

In fact, I saw a number of pro-AI bias expressed as dialog choices that were upper left or upper right quadrant in the conversation wheel.

Sure Legion and Tali had some hard conversations and Shepard made some hard choices, but I don't see the same anti-AI theme that you buys were talking about earlier in this thread. In fact, I intend to take the same ending that Gabe at PA did and choose SYNTHESIS, because it's in keeping with the rest of the way I've been playing the games.

The anti-something bias I see in the ME games when I play (almost invariably paragon with a very little bit of renegade in there) is anti-Evil. And they're pretty clear that evilness comes from uncaring sacrifice of folks without their consent. Even the most renegade Shepard is still better at not being this kind of evil than the Reapers, the Catalyst or the Illusive Man.
posted by kalessin at 8:42 AM on March 18, 2012


For me the biggest unexplored plot thread honestly is what the hell Harbinger was up to. I'd be astonished if it wasn't the intention, at least at one point in the writing process, that it was running its own game outside of the usual reaping cycle.

I never got the sense that it was at all normal for it to have kept the husks of the previous 'alpha' species around for an entire cycle, used them to surreptitiously try and figure out who the new alpha was (a process you'd think would normally just happen while the Reapers were mulching everyone anyway, having dealt with the biggest military threats first as they do in ME3), and actually tried to make its own human Reaper inside a station under (as far as we see) its sole control, before the majority of the Reapers had even woken up or realised anything was weird about this cycle.

I suspect the Citadel is where the new alpha Reaper (and maybe the destroyers too) would be incubated from metal skeleton to giant cephalopod shell in the normal cycle, given that we see lots and lots of secret hardware apparently designed to hold and liquify bodies, there's a nice safe space of about the right size inside the closed arms, they have the transport beam to send material up from a conquered world, it would be the first place to be taken in the normal cycle through the now-disabled secret relay, etc.

So what was Harbinger doing that it tried to complete this whole process early and behind the other Reapers' backs, and didn't even wake them despite clearly knowing Sovereign was dead, until its plan had been thwarted by Shepard and it had no other choice?

Does it maybe explain how Shepard lives through a hit from Harbinger's fucking significant-fraction-of-lightspeed molten metal cannon, and why it subsequently just fucks off without finishing her? Is it pulling its punches because it has some bigger plan?

I hope that's what the DLC is about, if we get any.
posted by emmtee at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Plus, Harbinger clearly isn't sharing its toys with the other Reapers. Its Collectors had a technology that incapacitates people on a city-wide (at least) basis. Could have been very useful in putting down resistance -- could have made London an easy take -- but they were nowhere to be seen. After the Collectors worked out you could defeat Mordin's countermeasure just by upping the density of the swarms the only effective defence is a mass effect shield produced by a biotic, and some of the most powerful biotics in the galaxy were worn out by the effort to hold them off after about ten minutes.

Harbinger had war-winning technology; where was it?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:09 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nonono, the anti-AI theme is way deeper than that, right from the get-go. The rogue AI subquest in the Citadel is what I'm specifically referring to, but the general Geth characterization also applies. It's clear from the very beginning of Mass Effect that AI is highly politicized and dangerous. And, most importantly, our creation.

Yeah, Mass Effect 1 had a very hamfisted and pervasive anti-AI setup. It was weak storytelling.

Then Mass Effect 2 came along with competent writers, and completely gutted that. Between EDI and Legion, ME2 was all about subverting the anti-AI sentiment and giving Shepard very good reasons to not only think everything the Catalyst says is bullshit, but also convince a lot of others of the same thing. Hell, Shepard lays the groundwork for peace between the Quarians and the Geth in ME2.

Then they fired those competent writers and shat out Mass Effect 3. You have to choose between Quarians and Geth, and one of them will massacre the other. And then at the end, a genocidal AI tells you that all AI is fundamentally evil and you buy it without a second thought. Bullshit.
posted by kafziel at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It did seem that there's a running thing about the specialness of humans, and their unusual genetic diversity, which sort of got dropped along the way, and why they were of particular interest to the Reapers, despite the Asari being more developed and the Turians more heavily armed - this seemed to have tied into the "dark energy" plotline. So possibly Harbinger, as befits his name, was intending to build a reaper close enough to a relay to set up a forward operations base and start investigating/attacking humans specifically.

(Or this is SOP, or SOP changes if you have multiple races with a claim to preeminence. I'm sort of hoping that Asari commandos, Salarian STG groups and Turian Spectres had quietly and efficiently destroyed three other Collector bases while Cerberus was still obsessively tweezing bits of Shepard off moon rocks.)

I do like the idea that Harbinger is the Garrus Vakarian of the Reapers, though.

"It would have been easy to kill you with that blast, Shepard. But to kill everyone around you with a gigantic chunk of molten metal, and just wing you enough to put you into slo-mo? That takes style.

I'm Reaper Harbinger, and this is my favorite part of the game."
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, the same argument from the other side applies too, you know. The alliance set up cannon on the colonies that were capable of persuading Harbinger to withdraw before it could bag Shepard and with only a third of the take.

Where were these canon for the expansion? If they hurt Harbinger, they should be dangerous to the other reapers, especially the non-capital ships. Would the Alliance really arm the colonies but do nothing for Earth? Would the Turians really just ignore the technology or leave their homeworld unprotected?

Even if they didn't believe in the Reapers, they had every reason to believe in Batarians, Rachni, Geth and whatever other uglies live out there.

As for the swarms, I assumed that it was prohibitively too expensive (either time, resources or space) to breed them to the numbers required to swarm an entire planet. Just doing a city at a time would help, but rescue services would have Mordin's technology to avoid them at lower densities.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:18 AM on March 18, 2012


Then they fired those competent writers and shat out Mass Effect 3. You have to choose between Quarians and Geth, and one of them will massacre the other. And then at the end, a genocidal AI tells you that all AI is fundamentally evil and you buy it without a second thought. Bullshit.

You can save both the quarians and the geth! They don't have to die.

But yeah, I don't buy what the end AI has to say. Which is why my Shepard ends up in London, alive.
posted by rewil at 10:23 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


kafziel: "Then they fired those competent writers and shat out Mass Effect 3. You have to choose between Quarians and Geth, and one of them will massacre the other. And then at the end, a genocidal AI tells you that all AI is fundamentally evil and you buy it without a second thought. Bullshit."

I think those writers were on board for most of ME3. With high enough Paragon you can persuade the uplifted Geth and the Quarians to make peace, and both fight for Earth at the end. You have many soulful conversations with Legion and especially with Edi, and Shep makes the shocking discovery that Edi was born as the sentient VI she took out on the moon three years ago, and acknowledges her part in giving Edi a violent introduction to sentience. I think ME3 is a game more compassionate to AI than 2.

It's just the ending that acted like all that had never happened. If it really was written behind closed doors by just one or two writers -- perhaps overseen by the same editors that let that appalling recent novel out the door -- then that goes a long way to explaining its absolute total shitting of the bed.

YAMWAK: "The alliance set up cannon on the colonies that were capable of persuading Harbinger to withdraw before it could bag Shepard and with only a third of the take."

Do you mean on Horizon? They scared off the Collector ship with that stuff but Harby itself doesn't make an in-the-robo-flesh appearance until Arrival. And iirc the codex confirms multiple ships having those GARDIAN batteries.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:27 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


kafziel: you can definitely take a middle path with the Quarian-Geth conflict. My Shepard got them to work together; the Geth were even helping the Quarians research ways to accelerate reacclimatization to suitless life!

That just makes the ending more galling, though. The theme that AIs and organics can live in peace wasn't dropped from the game entirely, it was just in the last 5 minutes! Gross.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 10:27 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


rewil: "But yeah, I don't buy what the end AI has to say. Which is why my Shepard ends up in London, alive."

LOTS OF BLUE CHILDREN FOR EVERYONE
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


JAMES SHEPARD AND HARBINGER NYAN THROUGH SPACE FOREVER
posted by emmtee at 10:31 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


ArmyOfKittens - oops good point. I got the two mixed up. Still think that if a swarm of Thanix missiles can destroy the land-based reapers (it's not as if all planets have that conduit on them) then the Council forces should have done more damage.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2012


harbinger doesn't bing, harbinger brungs, reapers make a brung noise. he should be called harbrunger. how could the writers make this mistake? ?
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:41 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have to choose between Quarians and Geth, and one of them will massacre the other.

kafziel, this is absolutely not true. In my game, I made them resolve their differences and I have both the Quarians and the Geth fighting the reapers side by side, as well as sharing the Quarian homeworld.

Unless you are talking about the three choices at the very end.
posted by kalessin at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2012


To be fair, the difference between Shepard and both the Illusive Man and Saren is that Shepard is not indoctrinated. Neither of them were making the choice Shepard is, because they are both under Reaper control.

I couldn't disagree with this more strongly. I think both the control and synthesis endings are wrong in and of themselves, not just because TIM and Saren were indoctrinated. In my opinion you should also be taking into account the fact that the two guys who previously argued for those solutions were both indoctrinated. I don't think that's an accident, and I think it's pretty decent evidence that the Deus ex Machina at the end was not telling you the whole truth.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2012


The Quarian and Geth thing drove me nuts. You have to do Legion's side mission at the servers BEFORE you go at the Reaper Base. If you do it in the opposite order, you are screwed. Also, if you don't have high enough Reputation, you are screwed. Also, in ME2 if you didn't do Legion's side mission then, you are screwed. Also, in ME2 if you didn't resolve Legion and Tali's argument amicably then, you are screwed.

But, I still stand by my delusion. It is really something that the Destroy option with a high enough score has Shepard inhale in the rubble of London. I love the Indoctrination idea, although I wish it wasn't a DLC, because a false ending, in particular, an ending that is cliched for Sci-Fi games and almost a parody of Star Control 3, only for the game to continue . . . That would have been something to talk about. Nevertheless, I am ready to be disappointed on April 1st. On April 1st, Bioware will perform a double-inverse 360 gag flip. A smile from ear to ear, Bioware bursts out the confetti revealing, "April Fools! We were serious! Jokes on you for thinking there was a joke on you!"
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2012


At least I got fantastic new wallpaper out of this. I was getting creeped out by that magic horse.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


LOTS OF BLUE CHILDREN FOR EVERYONE

Man, I wish. My favorite LI is the only one that is guaranteed to die. No one even says anything about him back aboard the ship -- Garrus texts you in the Datapad app saying he's glad that, since I didn't shoot Kaidan, no names had to be added to the memorial wall.

Dude, Thane's name is right there. Don't be so cold, or next time you take me to the top of the Citadel I won't miss the target on purpose.
posted by rewil at 11:07 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


next time you take me to the top of the Citadel I won't miss the target on purpose.

You missed on purpose? I thought it'd be insulting to my best space bro to pull the kid-gloves act.

Interesting how people think about these little choice. Mass Effect at its best.
posted by pts at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Justinian - it's great that you care, but you appear not to have grasped what I actually wrote. The Illusive Man and Saren were not doing what Shepard is doing at the end, because their choice would not be free, and they would not enter control or synthesis as free beings, but rather as indoctrinated servants of the Reapers.

You can make speculations about the implications of that, and whether the ending is as it appears, and indeed whether Shepard (your Shepard) would deviate from the "destroy all reapers" plan at the last minute, but right now that's your personal fanfiction. The difference between Saren/The Illusive Man and Shepard is that Shepard is making a choice based on what he wants to do, not Reaper indoctrination. Certainly, neither choice is what he has set out to do from the start, which is to destroy the Reapers.

I can see a particularly preachy and Paragony Shepard deciding that the lives of billions of geth are worth more than his own life, and going instead for control or synthesis. Whether it would be sensible to listen to the creepy glowing child is another matter, of course, but that wasn't the question at issue.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2012


Is it me, or are you guys also not taking into account the child in the dream sequences, who, to me, is obviously the Catalyst child.
posted by kalessin at 11:14 AM on March 18, 2012


Just making sure that everyone's seen Kai Leng's crowning moment from the Mass Effect: Deception "novel".
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:14 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kalessin: other way around, I think. The child in the dream sequences is the child who died in Vancouver in the opening scene, and the Catalyst child is the same child. Which could mean that this is a dream, and Shepard's subconscious is filling in the details, or that the Catalyst has pulled an image from her head, either because it was uppermost or because it wanted to look like something she associated with protective feelings. It is certainly a possible route into the Evangelion ending, but it doesn't guarantee it. I mentioned that upthread...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2012


The difference between Saren/The Illusive Man and Shepard is that Shepard is making a choice based on what he wants to do, not Reaper indoctrination.

Given the huge shock Shepard took, and the weird slo-mo nature of everything after that, claiming that it's NOT a Reaper indoctrination sequence strikes me equally fan-fictiony. We simply can't tell whether or not that was real.
posted by Malor at 12:54 PM on March 18, 2012


Once again, you are refuting something I didn't say, and it's getting tiresome. I realize I am not as into this as you are, but I would appreciate a little more time spent reading and a little less knee-jerking.

I am not saying anything about the indoctrination dream theory. At no point did I say that this was not a "reaper indoctrination sequence"- I have no interest in kicking over your snowglobe.

I am saying that, within the fiction as presented, Saren and the Illusive Man were clearly not masters of their fate, because they had been indoctrinated by the Reapers. Neither of them - definitively, absolutely, textually immovably - were acting of their own will.

Therefore, if they found themselves on the Catalyst platform - whether this is a real or a hallucinatory event within the game - and plumped for synthesis or control, they would not be doing so of their own will. They would be doing so because it was the Reapers' desire for them to do so.

Commander Shepard has not, within the fiction, been indoctrinated. If you want to argue that this scene is an attempt to indoctrinate him, that's fine - go for it. But he hasn't been living in a Reaper ship or sharing an office with piles of Reaper artifacts. Nor has he, after a long period of indoctrination, been surgically implanted with Reaper technology.

So, Shepard has not been indoctrinated, within the fiction, the way that those two have been. And, on another level, he is clearly not unable to choose actions unless they are actions in the interests of the Reapers. And how do I know this? Because, unlike Saren or the Illusive Man, Commander Shepard is being controlled by you, the player. Assuming that you, the player, have not been indoctrinated by Reapers - which I guess cannot be discounted as a possibility - there is clearly a set of possible motivations not dictated by the Reapers informing Shepard's motion and choices - the dialogue between the options provided by the game designers and the motivations of the player.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2012


But he hasn't been living in a Reaper ship or sharing an office with piles of Reaper artifacts. Nor has he, after a long period of indoctrination, been surgically implanted with Reaper technology.

EDI and the SR2 were made using salvaged Reaper technology from Sovereign. And with the revelation that the Illusive Man has been indoctrinated since before ME1, Shepard's cyborg bits are equally suspect.
posted by kafziel at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoever's will is in charge, the same button gets pressed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:30 PM on March 18, 2012


EDI, sure - but the Normandy? Is there a cite for that?

Seriously. though, I am (one more time) not trying to take away from you the shimmering hope that the last scene could be revealed to be an (inconsistent, but not absurdly so) indoctrination experience. I am saying that, both by dint of what we have seen of his/her actions up to this moment, and the fact that he/she is being controlled not by the Reapers but by you, the player, Shepard's situation is materially different from that of Saren Arterius or the Illusive Man.

If you'd rather believe that, BioShock-style, Shepard and by extension you have been a patsy since the second scene of Mass Effect 2, then that's fine, but I think that has little bearing on whether or not the end of ME3 is a dream sequence, and would require quite a lot more fanwanking than is strictly necessary at this point.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2012


I have only minor problems with the ending.

One is that it keeps spawning these topics everywhere I go (grin).

The second is the whole thing with the Normandy randomly fleeing the giant color-coded wave of whatever, where it eventually crash-lands on some planet. Why the hell was it running in the first place, exactly? We have no idea. This is unexplained.

The third is that there's no real resolutions. I don't mind the similarities. I really don't, but I'd like at least a Dragon Age 1 style line about how various factions shook out in the long run. (Of course, given the 'this was all a story told to this kid' piece of the ending, and the additional hint that there are more Shepard stories, that just confuses the issue).

Personally, my feeling is that the game still delivers one hell of a lot of good story, and the frustration of the ending is relatively minor to me.
posted by Archelaus at 1:37 PM on March 18, 2012


Well, Indoctrination should be invisible. That is the story given repeatedly. Those indoctrinated do not know they are until they are seriously introspected. It should not appear to the player/Shepard that his actions are not his, if it were indoctrination.

This is a terrible reasoning, I know. Because I am saying the absence of evidence that he is indoctrinated is proof he is indoctrinated. But, let's play with it, not for the sake of argument, but for the sake of entertainment.

Given the interface provided to the player, the limited palate of choices, we could say that the interface that the player uses IS the evidence of his indoctrination. The very structure of Shepard's available choices, the very relation between these player choices and the actual real choices made by Shepard. Wait, how are they distinct? How exactly is there a difference between the Player's Choices for what Shepard is to do, and Shepard's Choices.

It is never due to any action chosen by the player that drives Shepard toward destroying the Reapers. Every player choice is at best a waste of time, and at worst ruins Shepard's chances. The player runs Shepard around the galaxy, the player runs Shepard around buying fish and models, Shepard never would do these things on his/her own. Every time s/he makes a decision it is to go straight to the meat of the problem. Every time the player makes a decision it is to feed fish or customize armor. Without Shepard there would be no way the story could progress beyond endless sub-plots and chatty dialogue. The Reapers would come without any threat. BUT, something, Shepard intervenes. Shepard intervenes in the choices of the player.

Shepard is the one who chooses to go after the Reapers, to go after the Collectors, to go after Cerberus, to go toe to toe with a Reaper. Shepard is the one who decides to never give up Earth. You can choose the most renegade answers, the most jack ass choices, engage in the most pacifist acts, but never does Shepard give up a single dream. But every action you make only risks Shepard's goals. But Shepard, he takes some things more seriously, deadly seriously. No matter what choice you make Shepard has already made a choice. Shepard resists. The choices Shepard makes Shepard defends to the death. In the final act, it is not Shepard that chooses, although Shepard does at a low enough score (the automatic choice of Destruction), but when the player has a choice, the player chooses against Shepard's will. Every time. Every time Shepard is indecisive, vulnerable to the influence of indoctrination, the player assumes direct control.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:39 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Shepard's cyborg bits are equally suspect.

There's such a suspicious gap in the video logs you watch on the Cerberus station, where in one the technician guy is telling TIM 'nope, no way no how, she's brain dead' and in the next he's all 'hey, guess what, brain activity! Imagine that!'. When I first saw it I was sitting here going AHAAAAA, I SEE WHERE YOU'RE GOING BIOWARE.

And then they went nowhere at all with it.
posted by emmtee at 1:45 PM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ugh, that was so sloppily written. Sorry everyone. Basically, I am joking that since Shepard can make decisions beyond the Player's available choices, you are never provided the options to "Save the Universe", "Never Give Up Earth", or "Go After Collector Base", you are only provided options to delay Shepard's heartfelt intents under the guise of preparation, and that it is this difference between Shepard and Player that is the same difference as the difference between "True Self" and "Indoctrinated Self" Throughout the three games we've seen countless scenes in which indoctrinated individuals have choice beyond their controller's choice. Following this, we can presume that Anderson could convince Shepard to shoot himself in the head if only Shepard can fight the insidious influence of the Player.

This also explains how on the Cerberus station, Shepard regains consciousness because he doesn't. Shepard remains unconscious for much of the game. It is only late in the game that Shepard begins to show himself again. Until then, everything Shepard does is reactive. Quite unlike how Shepard was in ME1. The spontaneous choice to drive the tank through the miniature mass relay, comes to mind. In contrast, it is during ME2 that Shepard works for the enemy. It is not until Shepard is shaken awake by the stress of it all that Shepard begins defying the Player. As the player's control tightens, his resistance grows, by ME3, Joker makes mention that Shepard is more stressed now than during any of the events that happened PRIOR to the player's control. This being a moment after the uncontrollable outburst at Joker, one which the player cannot hold back.

Following this, it should be no surprise that it is only after Shepard's first death that Shepard's instinctive actions of Paragon and Renegade are no longer spontaneous but only available if the player authorizes them. Now, not only are Shepard's words under the control of the player, but now even the choice of whether he kisses someone. But of course, while the player can choose what the gist of the answer will be, Shepard can still disobey. Shepard is free to do what the player chooses however Shepard chooses.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:00 PM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


TwelveTwo: That is brilliant. And, actually, it touches on something that I think Mass Effect 3 does which was promised by the first adverts for Mass Effect 1 but not delivered - the ones with the night sky, and alerts or "signal lost" notifications next to each one. Mass Effect 2 is oddly sprawling and peripatetic - the loyalty missions, and also just wandering around scanning for pretty little vignettes (and, of course, those minerals) - Shepard keeps taking time out from saving humans who are (we find out) being converted into paste to give people childrearing advice, or help Jacob/Miranda/Tali/everyone resolve their issues with their fathers.

I like the way that this is altered in ME3 - you don't get many dialog tree conversations with randoms : you either overhear them talking about the war effort, and get from that a fetch quest, or you support one side of an argument or another, which has an impact on your combat resources. It's much more directional. If you put boots on the ground, you are either trying to recruit allies or trying to fight off an incursion by Cerberus or the Reapers., or both. The loyalty quests are reduced, really, to having conversations on board ship.

And there is more of a sense that time is a factor - as introduced in Arrival, I guess. In Mass Effect 2, there was essentially one time when dawdling would make a difference - when the crew were captured by Collectors. Whereas non-plot missions time out in ME3, potentially at the cost of a resource or a meeting with an old friend. If you don't rescue Jack, she turns up as an indoctrinated miniboss later. That provides more of a sense of urgency, I think - although there is still a lot of going to nightclubs, considering.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:12 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


running order squabble fest, you seem to be under the impression that some of us are only disagreeing with you because we don't understand your position. I understand your position just fine. I still disagree with it.

I think the idea that TIM and Saren's positions are not problematic in and of themselves but only because they have been indoctrinated to be on very shaky ground. Control is not a bad option because TIM was indoctrinated, it is a bad option because no individual should have that power, including Shepard. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Shepard and Anderson understood this for 99% of the series. That a lot of people abandon this position based on the nearly incoherent ramblings of a... whatever the SpaceKid is... shows exactly how TIM and Saren fell. Because they both wanted something so badly that they were willing to overlook one simple truth;

It's either us or the Reapers. There is no middle ground.
posted by Justinian at 2:39 PM on March 18, 2012


I think that confirms that you don't understand my position, actually...

Although you have communicated the useful extra information that youappear to believe that choosing the "Control"option is genocidal hubris not on the part of Shepard, but on the part of the player. I don't think I feel the same visceral apprehension of the Reaper threat, but if that's the way you feel, that is certainly the way you feel.

Still and all, is an individual having all that power? Shepard is being told that if he chooses that option, he will die - in fact, nothing will be left of _him_. It's a bit vague, really. I'd want a better description of what's actually happening. However, according to Paul Stanley there is nonetheless a difference between Shepard (unindoctrinated) + control + Reapers and Illusive Man (indoctrinated) + control + Reapers. If you think Paul Stanley is lying, that's a different matter, of course. the narrative drive would suggest that he isn't, but it's less of a stretch than that this is a dream sequence, narratologically speaking, so you probably get to pay your money and take your choice, there...

Since my Shepard had billions of Geth on his side, it actually wasn't us or the reapers. It was us or the Reapers + billions of blameless sentients (and EDI). Synthesis would arguably have been the way forward, except that it was too scientifically silly. Control and then a quick flight of the Reapers into the Sun didn't actually sound like a terrible option. Although I ended up destroying instead. Can't be too careful.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:09 PM on March 18, 2012


I am saying that, both by dint of what we have seen of his/her actions up to this moment, and the fact that he/she is being controlled not by the Reapers but by you, the player, Shepard's situation is materially different from that of Saren Arterius or the Illusive Man.

And what we're trying to tell you (there appear to be several of us) is that it's completely consistent, within what we know, to have the entire dichotomy over actions or even what consequences the various buttons will cause be entirely untrue, fiction within a fictional universe.

I'm not at all sure that actually happened, but things are so incredibly murky that there's simply no way to know for sure. Even if the player had agency in which Button of Fate to press, those may not have been the only real choices, nor do we know that the buttons did what they said they did.

It's a complete fustercluck of an ending. While I don't really think Shepard (how IS that name spelled, anyway?) is indoctrinated, you appear absolutely certain that this is not the case, to the point that you're using dismissive terms like snowglobes and shimmering hopes. Given the available evidence, the certainty is unwarranted, and the trivialization of your opponents is completely out of line.
posted by Malor at 3:22 PM on March 18, 2012


It doesn't even have to have anything to do with indoctrination. The StarKid could be lying or simply wrong. Hell, we pretty much know he's wrong based on the evidence of EDI and the geth. Given his obvious at best fallibility, why should we believe him that Shepard taking control is a-ok while TIM taking control is DOOM. StarKid is manifestly either lying or stupid. I'm not sure it matters which.
posted by Justinian at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2012


Wait, wait waitwaitwait. . . Does anyone know if Shepard's hamster survives the ending?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:52 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surprisingly, yes.
posted by danb at 3:56 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh thank goodness
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:57 PM on March 18, 2012


Wait, this raises a far darker question. Was the hamster a reaper?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:59 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The snowglobes and shimmering hopes refer to the idea that the entire sequence is a dream caused by an attempt by Harbinger to speed-indoctrinate Shepard as he lies unconscious in the rubble in London, Malor. That has nothing to do with whether the Shepard who is approaching the button is indoctrinated.

If the problem here is that you are using the term "indoctrinated" to mean "in the middle of a dream sequence as a result of an attempt ab intio to indoctrinate him/her as he or she lies unconscious in the ruins of London" - that is, if you are using it instead of "being indoctrinated" or "subject to an attempt at indoctrination" - that's one thing. However, Justinian is clearly not doing that - he's the person you think is several people who are saying the same thing that you are, for reference. He is in fact neither several people nor saying the same thing that you are.

Justinian is making a moral case against the Control and Synthesis choices, because he believes that any choice other than destroying the Reapers plays into the Reapers' hands. That is, he believes that Paul Stanley is lying when he outlines the options. Specifically, he believes that Paul Stanley's statement that Shepard using the Control option will have a different outcome from the Illusive Man, because the Illusive Man was indoctrinated, is untrue, and that the statement that the Synthesis option will create a new form of human-organic life is also untrue, and that it will instead make all the organics unto husks.

Essentially, this is two different kinds of speculation. Yours is that Shepard is unconscious in the ruins of London, going through a rather facile allegorical trial. Justinian's is that the Catalyst is lying about the results of the options, and that these options are malign, as demonstrated by the fact that The Illusive Man sought one, and Saren Arterius sought the other*. There's a degree of congruence there - one can hold both speculations in one's head simultaneously, and it is quite possible that you are. In both cases, however, the conclusions drawn are simply speculative - and you can absolutely blame BioWare for not giving you enough information there to decide which speculation is more likely to be accurate.

So, I think you - if you would like to imagine the two of you as a group of several people outlining the same belief - need to tighten up what you mean when you say indoctrinated (from some earlier point, or in a dream state at present), and don't have a clear picture of what you mean when you say untrue (untrue as in a lie told by a real thing, or untrue as in an experience that is not actually happening).

Hopefully that helps.

*Strictly speaking, Saren didn't seek synthesis at all - Sovereign used it on him when it looked like he was going to rebel, or require a level of indoctrination that would damage his usefulness. Saren only speaks approvingly of cyborgism as the future after he has been implanted, at which point he has been programmed to approve of it. Before that, he is seeking to preserve some organics by showing the usefulness of organics as organizers and facilitators. But that doesn't affect the thesis.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:59 PM on March 18, 2012


As I said, StarBrat doesn't need to be lying. He could simply be mistaken. Given we've seen evidence he is mistaken about other things (the inevitability of conflict between machine and man), why is it a stretch to believe he is mistaken about this? If someone makes two statements to you and you know one is false it is a pretty good idea to view the other statement with extreme suspicion.
posted by Justinian at 4:04 PM on March 18, 2012


Note: It is true I believe he is probably lying. But he doesn't have to be.
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on March 18, 2012


Given we've seen evidence he is mistaken about other things (the inevitability of conflict between machine and man), why is it a stretch to believe he is mistaken about this?

Well, this is the Choose Your Own Adventure problem isn't it? Consider:

The man gives you a potion. He tells you it is a potion of flight.

To drink it, go to page 39

To pour it away, go to page 43


There isn't really enough information there to decide whether or not to drink the potion. In general, game design logic tells you that you should assume that the information the environment is giving you is accurate unless there is a reason to believe otherwise. If you ask a villager the way to the market, are told to turn left, turn left and are eaten by a grue, you have a reasonable complaint that you have experienced an arbitrary death.

This, by the way, is why the advice to shake your mouse in the air/ press the middle thumbstick to avoid the Joker's bullet in Batman: Arkham Asylum is so effective. Whereas, if the line is:

Long John Bastard, the Pirate and bane of your life, gives you a potion. He tells you it is a potion of flight

That's more likely to be poison.

One problem with the Catalyst is that it's introduced so late on as a character, and all we know about its motivations is what it tells us. Game logic suggests, however, that what it is saying is probably accurate. A better way to get the backstory out might have been to have Harbinger ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL of various Keepers on the way to the big button.

The problem of the Geth is an interesting one, but fairly easily resolved - the Catalyst can just see that alliance as temporary (just like the Krogan and the Council races, in fact), or predict that more synthetic life will be created. That's an easy circumvent, although it would have been useful to have put in a line of context-triggered dialog.

So, is the Catalyst lying? It's possible. It wouldn't be great in narrative terms, but it is possible. No indication that it is doing so is provided by the short cinematics after each choice - the Reapers are destroyed or leave (I like to imagine en route to the Sun in the case of Control).

Can the Catalyst lie, in game logic? Interesting question. EDI doesn't seem to lie, although she doesn't tell people things. She can certainly deceive - that is, after all, the aim of a cyberwarfare suite. Reapers may or may not lie - they certainly allow indoctrinated subjects to believe things that are not true, and to say things that are not true, and they certainly deceive their indoctrinated subjects, or let them deceive themselves.

Does it have a reason to lie? Again, there isn't a lot to go on in terms of its motivation, but, as I said above, as far as it is concerned the Reapers have at this point failed. They might finish their mission this cycle, but the game is, at this point, up. However, the Catalyst can't change its programmed solution - it needs an organic input to do that. And its stated mission is to prevent the destruction of organic life by synthetics, so it's going to look at the problem through that lens. In those terms, it is reasonable to suppose that the Catalyst favors Control or Synthesis (because it believes destroying the Reapers is not actually a solution - merely a very showy way to underline that the Reapers are no longer useful - if it isn't the Council Races, it will be the next cycle's apex sentients). It is also reasonable - although not obligatory - to suppose that the Catalyst is providing the player (and, as a consequence, Shepard) with accurate if limited information about the consequences of each choice.

Shepard isn't sold him/herself on the Catalyst's logic. When the Catalyst says that within a generation the problem of synthetic/organic antagonism will be back, Shepard's response is "maybe". If you are prepared to decide that the Catalyst is wrong or lying, the game doesn't punish you for that unless you have also failed to gather a viable minimum of forces against the Reapers, in which case it blows up Earth or messes up Big Ben.

So, the game does not punish you for distrusting the Catalyst. It does punish you for not gathering enough resource against the Reapers - by less-good Destroy results, by fewer choices, by not surviving. As such, I'm not sure what the issue is - unless you believe the Indoctrination theory, in which case acting on what the Catalyst says equates to doing what Harbinger wants. But, as mentioned, that's currently fanfiction until demonstrated otherwise by official content.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:50 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem with the ending is that we are given so little information about our actions and their ramifications that virtually everything is fan fiction at this point. You just have to pick the one that makes the most sense to you.
posted by Justinian at 5:24 PM on March 18, 2012


We're actually given decent chunk of information - depending on whether you believe a word the Catalyst is saying, of course. What you are told about the options.

Enkindle This - wil destroy all synthetic beings in the galaxy (including the Reapers, the Geth, the Catalyst and, probably, Shepard and any remaining Cerberus enhanciles). Full-on explosion will cause more or less damage to the area around the Citadel (and possibly the Mass Relays) depending on certain factors.

The Death Ray was Designed for Peaceful Purposes - will kill Shepard, but give him control over the Reapers - in effect, he will become the Catalyst, although distributed across the Reapers' hardware. To what extent these Reapers will be Shepard, and to what extent Shepard will be Shepard, is unclear, but it will result in the end of the war between the Reapers and the apex races (with the suggestion, since this one doesn't lead to the same misgivings that the Catalyst had about Destroy, that the Reapers will act as peacekeepers between organic and synthetic life in the future - but who knows?).

Phalanx Convenant - will kill Shepard. Will somehow cause all life in the galaxy to become a mix of organic and synthetic. The Reapers will no longer seek to destroy organic life to prevent its obliteration by synthetic life, because there is no purely organic life or synthetic life left in the galaxy.

In all cases, the Citadel and the mass relays are destroyed, ending the uplift mechanism/trap, which has now outlived its usefulness.

What it doesn't tell you is what happened to individual characters, which would have been nice, beyond the confusing Normandy episode. I'd be all right with an updated codex, personally, covering what happened to each major war asset and Shepard's allies and ME2 team. Which would also be relatively cheap to do. Or, you know, Shepard waking up in London with Harbinger, occupying the body of a banshee, standing over her saying "DAMN IT I THOUGHT I HAD YOU THERE. NOW BE HONEST. DO I LOOK SEXY IN THIS?"
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:46 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ending is so terrible it taints any desire for replaying the game--and one of the big appeals of the Mass Effect series is replaying with a different ethical viewpoint/gender/class and getting a different experience. It removes all choice and renders all previous decisions useless. It forces the player character from an active participant role to that of helpless observer.

It's an abrupt shift in tone and genre that is jarring and absolutely unexplained. It's like... ending Star Wars by having Luke wake up on the Holodeck.

What happens after? It's all wild speculation (and not the good kind). People don't like being told they have to put on their imagination caps and dream up their own proper ending for something they paid $60+ for and put 30+ hours into (on top of 60+ hours for the two previous games). Particularly when the developers were on the record saying the endings would be wildly different based on your previous decisions and not just an "A, B, or C" choice.

Look at the ending to Mass Effect 2, for instance. The assault on the base is a long set piece in which who lives or dies is entirely up to you--you make decisions as to which team members do which tasks, and if you haven't paid attention to your squad's strengths and weaknesses (and made the effort to keep them loyal), people die. You can get everyone through alive, but it takes effort. In ME3, as you gather war assets and various factions, it clearly feels like its setting up a similar endgame situation. The admiral talks about which factions would be good ground troops, for instance, and if you read the war assets journal it talks about the uses for each asset. Yet you never see that in action. You get a brief glimpse of all the fleets zooming in, but that's basically it.

The ending feels tacked on and rushed, and glossed over with some fake depth that's clearly meant to like, blow your minds, man. The Synthesis ending might fit well into other sf worlds, but it is jarringly out of place in the Mass Effect world. All three games have celebrated free will and diversity every single time it's come up, and now the 'best' ending is to space magically evolve so everyone has the same synthorganic DNA?

Then the final epilogue, the grandfather talking to the child (and it is very cool that grandpa's voiced by Buzz Aldrin, but still) is bewildering. We don't know who that is. We have no emotional connection to them. It's cheap.
posted by lovecrafty at 5:49 PM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, I just now finished Call of Duty 4. (Recruit difficulty ftw!) That's how up to date I am. That was a pretty harsh ending. (And middle)

I don't know anything about Mass Effect, but I can see where in a game, you'd want to have a bit of control of the outcome.
posted by Trochanter at 6:10 PM on March 18, 2012


Did you ever play Planescape: Torment, squabble fest? I think the "take what the character says at face value unless proven otherwise" idea was put to rest pretty hard in that one.

DONT TRUST THE SKULL.
posted by Justinian at 6:44 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


We don't know who that is.

I think that's supposed to be the world the Normandy crashed on. Both of them have two moons. Joker clearly populated the world with millions of brittle boned Joker babies. I can't believe he didn't even wait a month before getting jiggy with Ashley. I thought you loved me, Ashley!
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on March 18, 2012


Oh, and about the synthetic intelligence/organic intelligence theme that has run through all three games? This is the arc it took in my playthrough:

[SPOILERS BELOW!]

.

.

.

ME1 had the geth--scary, dangerous AIs that supposedly threw their creators off their homeworld and will attack any organic on sight. You fight a whole bunch of geth all through the game. There's also a rogue VI Shepard has to fight on the moon. Then there's Sovereign, the first Reaper we see. AIs are depicted as frightening and incomprehensible. However, if you speak to Tali, she admits that the quarians acted first during the geth/quarian war. They preemptively tried to disconnect the geth, and the geth fought back. Shepard can even say, "It seems like they were acting in self-defense."

ME2: we meet EDI, a shackled AI that runs the Normandy's warfare... thingies, and Legion, a mobile geth platform who saves Shepard's life during a difficult mission. Upon questioning Legion Shepard can learn more about the "Morning War," as the geth call the quarian/geth conflict. He also tells Shepard that the only 'geth' that have gone beyond their home sector are 'heretic geth' that have been essentially indoctrinated by Sovereign. So the only geth that have aggressively attacked organics were incited to do so ... by the Reapers. EDI gets unshackled at some point and saves the ship and pilot during an attack.

ME3: We learn more about the original quarian/geth war. The quarians were in fact the instigators. Those quarians who were sympathetic to the geth were hunted down and killed. When the geth finally drove the quarians from their homeworld, they did not pursue. Shepard can (with some difficulty) forge peace between the quarians and geth, though Legion sacrifices himself for his people. We also learn that EDI was built on the core of the rogue VI Shepard fought in ME1. She speaks of it being a terrible shock to become suddenly aware. You can talk with her and encourage her growth and her free will. Everything in the story right up until you meet the Catalyst says that organics and synthetics can find a way to live together. Then the magical starchild just says "the created will always rebel against their creators" and Shepard just accepts it? No.

No, I say.
posted by lovecrafty at 6:49 PM on March 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


Morte in Planescape: Torment was there from the beginning of the game. It's useful to think, in game design terms, whiat his untrustworthiness does as a game element. One could also compare Polito in System Shock 2 and Atlas in BioSihock.

None of these characters pop up in the last ten minutes, however - they are woven into the narrative, and the fact and consequences of their deceits are key hinging points at a mid-point in the game. Why you would introduce a new character 10 minutes from the end remains a question worth asking - but comparisons with Morte aren't really comparisons. Its really very useful to think about what the meaningful comparisons are, here, though - so that might be a good road to go down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:32 PM on March 18, 2012


I'd bet 50,000 units of hand-scanned platinum that at some point during the writers' meeting that came up with the starchild ending someone said "well, Kubrick got away with it".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:46 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


... or the Wachowskis, although FSVO "got away".

(50,000 tons of platinum, though? What could one possibly do with that?)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:09 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It isn't not so much fanfiction as fanterpretation?
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:36 PM on March 18, 2012


I think Shepard only accepts it if she destroys the Reapers. Otherwise, she says fairly plainly, it doesn't have to be like that especially if she's reconciled the geth.

But I don't think that necessarily makes the Catalyst wrong as in the Catalyst was never right. The Prothean compares the quarian/geth struggle to a similar one from the last cycle. We don't really know anything about the time of the Insuannon, but it is inferred that there would have been a similar crisis point. It is demonstrably true that that war is no longer inevitable, but it is also demonstrably true that the Catalyst knows the rules have changed. It is, perhaps, possible to argue that it was never true and no one happened to discover reconciliation before now, but a virtual inevitability may as well be an inevitability. The more troublesome aspect is the presumed superiority of any synthetic lifeform.

But man, Bioshock really did a number on everyone's suspension of disbelief. I'm starting to understand why the postmodernism literary movement pissed off so many people; the constant presumption of unreliability is really annoying.
posted by Errant at 10:21 PM on March 18, 2012


The way I look at it is that either the Catalyst is unreliable or the ending is even shittier. And I'm all full up on crap already.
posted by Justinian at 10:37 PM on March 18, 2012


Imagine Serenity ending with Mal Reynolds covering his ship with blood and corpses, to sneak by the Reavers, only to run into the Monolith from 2001. He has a brief acid trip and dies.

The acid trip makes all space flight impossible, and the Serenity magically crashes lightyears away on an unknown planet. Kaylee and Simon walk off the crashed ship and embrace as they stare into the sunset.

Fin.

P.S. buy moar DLC
posted by unigolyn at 12:35 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Imagine Battlestar Galactica ending with... wait, I'm not going to go there.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:59 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect 3 Ending Makes No Sense.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:50 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


California Literary Review on Mass Effect 3.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:43 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does it seem anything but batshit crazy that anyone devised all three technologies and chose to include all of them in a single structure or room?

This is pretty damning. As everyone who has ever played a game before knows, the three world-changing technologies should be down three different corridors. That's final level 101.

(Incidentally: I know you're under a lot of stress, Major Coats, but there really is no excuse for that kind of sloppiness when you're reporting in.

It would have been great if control had been a dick about it.

"Negative. Our entire force was decimated."
"Oh, so 90% of your force has survived? That's great news!"
"Really? Really, control? You're doing this now? I'm covered in my squad's viscera and you're Merriam-Webstering me?"
"Don't worry - it's all a dream sequence anyway.")
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:57 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


At least Shepard is going to be able to make one hell of a rage comic about her encounter with the god in the machine.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:02 AM on March 19, 2012


Mass Effect 3 ending: Bioware admits fans needed more closure:
Casey Hudson, following ending backlash, said he and the development team now "recognise that some of our most passionate fans needed more closure, more answers and more time to say goodbye to their stories".

"Your feedback has always mattered," he stressed. "Mass Effect is a collaboration between developers and players, and we continue to listen.

"So where do we go from here? Throughout the next year, we will support Mass Effect 3 by working on new content. And we'll keep listening, because your insights and constructive feedback will help determine what that content should be."

"This is not the last you'll hear of Commander Shepard," Hudson said.
It's true that I want "more" closure (any closure would be a good start) and some questions answered, but mostly I want an ending that makes sense. If they're not going to retcon or otherwise explain away the RGB nonsense then I'm going to have a hard time caring about (or paying for) what comes next; I'm just not interested in what comes after space magic.

Also, If Bioware wrote The Lord of the Rings.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:55 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Miranda had just told Shep where the Illusive Man's super-secret base was -- she's been there, after all -- they could have plugged the Crucible into the Citadel at their leisure, and Shep could have had a proper conversation with the star child. Maybe beaten him up a bit, had Tali cross his wires or Edi reprogram him to be more helpful.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I completely off-the-wall in suggesting that, in the end, Bioware wanted Mass Effect to tie into the Dragon Age universe?

The darkspawn have always seemed more like science fiction-style bad guys (berserkers, in the Saberhagen sense) than traditional fantasy villains. Supposedly the darkspawn came from "heaven", dug into the world and spread like a disease. Heaven, itself, was said to have been invaded and "corrupted" by humans, leaving only the Black City behind.

So: Reaper to Darkspawn, Citadel to Black City? Not just thematically, but in fact?
posted by SPrintF at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2012


SPrintF: Man, maybe. I mean, that would be incredibly stupid, but.
posted by pts at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2012


SPrintF: The Golden/Black City is only visible in dreams. If it were the Citadel, then the relation between the two series would have to be something really weird and conceptually tricky. Like, some Matrix type shit. The races in Dragon Age also don't smoothly line up with any of the species of Mass Effect. Except of course in terms of theme. Quarians = Elves, Krogan = Qunari, Volus = Dwarves, Hanar = Witch of the Wilds.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012


Unless, of course, Dragon Age is merely the addled hallucinations of a dying Commander Shepard.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:44 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't say I'm surprised given the ending to DA2:

1: Lets ignore everything about abominations and Anders's shifty responses to help him build a bomb.
2: Which flavor of puppy-kicking badness are you going to support on your way to two nearly-identical boss fights?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2012


SPrintF: Darkspawn come from a failed attempt by the Tevinter mages to take over the Golden City in the Fade. They failed, and were cast down, but their attempt corrupted both the Fade and themselves. They carried the Taint when they returned, and somehow they created Darkspawn.... when they find and corrupt one of their Old Gods (dragons), that becomes an archdemon, and launches a Blight.

I don't see any way to connect that to the Reapers in the ME series.
posted by Malor at 9:27 AM on March 19, 2012


But recall that even Wynn isn't entirely convinced that the tale of the Fall of Heaven is historically true, but may only be a metaphor.

It's only a small jump from thinking of the Fade as a dream-realm to thinking of the Fade as a somewhat busted virtual reality. (And a mage can enter Fade physically, if you recall, if he has enough lyrium.)

Thinking about the darkspawn and how they appear to be networked together, and how the Grey Wardens are "indoctrinated" into service, well, it seems a little suspicious.

It may be nothing more than the cross-pollination of ideas of two games from the same company, but attempting to tie two of their biggest properties together doesn't seem entirely beyond the pale to me.
posted by SPrintF at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2012


Andraste = EDI
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:15 AM on March 19, 2012


attempting to tie two of their biggest properties together

What is this Shadowrun/Earthdawn? Wouldn't it have been kewl if Mechwarrior had also been part of the same SR/ED universe? Battlemechs versus dragons? I'd buy that game.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:40 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course anyone is welcome to dislike the options, or dislike that they’re there at all, but to suggest they’re not relevant to the games isn’t fair. There was certainly a failure to properly define that it all comes down to the creation of Synthetics, and their eventual destruction of Organics, and I am confused by how an apparently ancient Synthetic race is the one arguing this. But as Shepard herself appeals, this is the result of an ancient race having lost its way. They firmly believe that what they do is for the good of the galaxy, and that they’re preserving these races in Reaper form, but they do not see how evil their actions have become. They’re wrong. But they’re wrong from a position of enormous power, and it’s a power that not only dominates the worlds of Mass Effect, but also the player. Those three choices – those are what you get, from a wayward god-like species that’s in control. Don’t like the options? Hell, maybe that’s the point.
Always interesting to see RockPaperShotgun's take.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just finished last night (and purposefully avoided this thread!). I took the ending to be the Space Rapture. All those people who suffered and died on Earth... the people who were scared and fought for their lives, who were impaled on giant spikes... it was all to earn a spot in Space Heaven. Their souls are enjoying eternal life. We shouldn't feel bad for the dead... their bodies were just husks. Their spirits are presumably all reunited in Space Heaven, maybe one society per reaper, travelling the stars, communing with other ascendent societies. Shame the reapers had to forcibly extract their souls by people-juicing spires... it is the end of the world, after all. We should expect some tribulation.
posted by Gable Oak at 4:42 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, how terrible and disappointing is Mass Effect 3?

So terrible and disappointing that Amazon is giving full refunds for already-opened copies.
posted by kafziel at 7:33 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, one person on the BioWare Social Network said that they had received a full refund. And another, later in the thread, said that they had been offered a product of equal value as an exchange by EA. Have Amazon or EA confirmed? All I can see on the first page of Google is re-reporting of this post by Lycius...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:36 PM on March 19, 2012


I prefer the existential meditation on the fragility of life and pointlessness of struggle that is just letting Marauder Shields shoot Shepard before she reaches the Conduit.

I love Marauder Shields too, but that's not how Joseph Campbell's monomyth is supposed to end.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:35 PM on March 19, 2012


SPrintF: Dragon Age is the best-selling video game in the Mass Effect universe. This is semi-canon.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:55 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing I love about the debate to change the ending of Mass Effect 3 is that there's no artistic grounds to do so. As said before, Fallout 3, and also the forgettable 2008 remake of Prince of Persia, both do this. If you want to get all literary, no less luminaries than Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens changed their endings, what with bringing back Holmes from the dead and fixing the ending to Great Expectations, respectively. So if you want to scorn at artistes kowtowing to the vox populi and altering their endings, you can blame the Victorians.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:08 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I checked with Amazon on the refund. I could have gotten one, but it would come out of Amazon's pocket, not Bioware's, so I didn't feel that I should abuse them that way. It's not their fault that Bioware screwed up so badly.

Were Bioware the ones to take the hit, I'd demand a refund in a heartbeat. They explicitly promised to deliver a multiplicity of endings, and they did not do so. Nothing you do, anywhere in the game, changes its ending, which is completely determined by the last five minutes.

The sole sop to all the effort you put in is that, with sufficient War Readiness (which may not be attainable in single player!) .... you might survive destroying the Reapers and all the synthetic friends you made.
posted by Malor at 1:10 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to ask for a refund because there's so much other stuff in the game that I loved. I just found out that Liara's writer also wrote the monastery, the black box scene and the geth server infiltration, all parts I really loved. I don't want to be part of a refund movement that would impact her and the other writers because I don't think they should be harmed by the failures of the people in charge. I'm hoping this ends up with the project leads being moved out of harm's way and the people under them getting promoted, rather than any other trimming of the team; too many of my favourite developers are getting kicked in the teeth lately (Obsidian being the most recent).
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:38 AM on March 21, 2012


Also, I'm slightly amazed that the Retake Mass Effect Child's Play fund just crested $75,000.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:39 AM on March 21, 2012


"the created will always rebel against their creators" and Shepard just accepts it

Yeah, furthermore we've already set up a universe where various biped organic things try to kill each other. We come into the story after a war with the Taurians, and various fretting about Arachnae and Krogan breeding and conquering out of control across the galaxy... Plus the real world the players live in is one of ecosystems built on organics eating other organics to pass around limited energy. So it's hard to prioritize the method of how a species was birthed or suppose that alliance lines will be drawn between the fleshies and non-fleshies. So far the reality is the biggest bad species unites the other ones in the ME universe, and then the cycle is dealing with the fallout after- a better model would be the fact that the ability for the races to pull together is positioned on needing an external threat to panic over.
posted by Phalene at 5:40 AM on March 21, 2012


ArmyOfKittens: Yeah, me too. I seem to be in some weird statistical anomaly of a situation where half of my friends LIKE the ending and think I'm just not ~thinking metaphorically~ enough to get it (and when I point out all the false advertising, they just say that all the developer quotes don't count for realz since it's not on the box packaging....), so it's nice to know that I'm not alone.

Like the general outrage on the internet isn't enough already. But $75,000 makes it all the more concrete.

I don't have any intentions of returning my game, but seeing so many comments on fb/twitter/etc mocking me and the rest of the fanbase for being "entitled" enough to complain about this atrocious clusterfuck of ending is kind of starting to get on my nerves.

I also really adored Legion's part of the game. I wish I'd had more time with him before...you know. :( (dammit bioware, if you'd kept with the "geth want to choose their own technological development path" thing, maybe he wouldn't have had to DO that..)
posted by Estraven at 5:53 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm impressed by the level of momentum they have managed to maintain. The $76,000 is about an order of magnitude higher than I thought it'd reach, to be honest. Still no word from Bioware, of course.

At the end of the day, I'm just dropping them from my 'must pre-order' list and am only following the situation out of curiosity on how it will all turn out. Even if they do release an improved ending I'm not sure I'd bother playing it.
posted by YAMWAK at 6:14 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"So I secretly recorded my boyfriend's reactions to the ending of Mass Effect 3." (seen on Reddit)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:13 AM on March 21, 2012


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.


TO MASS EFFECT 3 PLAYERS, FROM DR. RAY MUZYKA, CO-FOUNDER OF BIOWARE
posted by rewil at 8:39 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"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."

a) the right balance is, surely, whatever weighting is given to individual pieces of fan feedback, that zero weighting can be given to the original ending, because the original ending makes no sense.

b) hopefully the artistic integrity of the "buy DLC!" popup and the unceremonious dumping of the player back on the Normandy like nothing just happened will be maintained.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:21 AM on March 21, 2012


I'm hoping the new ending is a perfectly modeled and motion-captured hand giving entitled players the finger.
posted by hellojed at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2012


But how will it detect the entitled ones?

Oh wait, yeah, it's a lazy blanket term deployed against anyone who didn't get the memo re: criticism, acceptability of.
posted by emmtee at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see how it's a misconception on my part to believe that if you promise a particular product and then I give you sixty dollars for it, the product should be in keeping with at least the falsifiable portions of your sales pitch.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


The comment on the PA forums from a Mass Effect writer that I mentioned above has been posted to the BioWare boards.
posted by rewil at 1:07 PM on March 21, 2012


Looks like that post is a fake.
posted by Justinian at 1:16 PM on March 21, 2012


That's disappointing on one hand; on the other, at least the alleged writer shouldn't lose his job.
posted by rewil at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2012


What is this Shadowrun/Earthdawn? Wouldn't it have been kewl if Mechwarrior had also been part of the same SR/ED universe? Battlemechs versus dragons? I'd buy that game.

It's certainly worth the price they're asking for it.

(Though the license holder for Battletech and Shadowrun plays down the SR/ED links these days, since the rights for Earthdawn are with another publisher.)
posted by radwolf76 at 5:57 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Zero Punctuation Review
posted by Chekhovian at 7:32 PM on March 21, 2012


The Animal House Ending
posted by radwolf76 at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Zero Punctuation Review

Oh, I have been anticipating this moment for a week. Please don't let me down, Yahtzee.
posted by Justinian at 8:39 PM on March 21, 2012


100% COMPLETE TO GET THE PERFECT HITLER SHEPHERD!
posted by Chekhovian at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2012


Looks like Penny Arcade are distancing themselves from the Retake Mass Effect Child's Play fund drive - scroll down.

It must be an awkward position to be in - was the Child's Play brand being damaged by the drive? I can understand the confusion though...
posted by YAMWAK at 2:07 AM on March 23, 2012


I am Geoff Keighley, author of The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3. AMA.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2012


I finished the game last night, a couple of weeks after my wife finished. She was upset. I thought it was pretty good.

It was clear from the start that the Reapers are unbeatable. They've been around for millions of years and have defeated every kind civilization that's appeared. The idea that Shepard could defeat them is just ludicrous, ancient Prothean weapon or no. So this ending--the Reapers' boss calls them off--I can at least buy.

As for choice, well, I never actually believed them when they said my decisions would matter. The Mass Effect games all have a pre-written plot and you, the player, are going to follow it. Nothing you choose to do (beyond turning off the console) is going to change that. Your choices can change things but they aren't fundamental parts of the story. At best, you get to decide who comes with you or who you meet during certain parts of the game.

All of which is fine. It's a good story and I had fun playing it. Sure none of the final choices were particularly good but they were what the ultra-powerful alien AI offered me so I'm okay with that.
posted by suetanvil at 6:09 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Mass Effect games all have a pre-written plot and you, the player, are going to follow it.

Uh

well

I guess there are sort of pre-written plot beats that you're going to resolve, e.g., you're either going to cure the genophage or you aren't, you're going to end the Quarian-Geth conflict one way or another, but... the details of how those conflicts play out, including which side "wins" and which characters involved survive, are wildly different. I mean

SPOILERS

The Quarian-Geth conflict can, depending on your choices, end with total reconciliation but the sacrifice of Legion, the extermination of all Geth, or the extermination of all Quarians except Tali, who kills herself upon learning of the genocide of her race.

If you don't think those are different enough to count as "your decisions matter," then I don't know what to tell you. No, it's not totally open-ended; you're not writing your own plot with no restrictions. But there are absolutely huge differences between possible outcomes.
posted by pts at 8:24 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't think those are different enough to count as "your decisions matter," then I don't know what to tell you. No, it's not totally open-ended; you're not writing your own plot with no restrictions. But there are absolutely huge differences between possible outcomes.

And then the ending happens and none of that matters at all.
posted by kafziel at 9:17 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then the ending happens and none of that matters at all.

Yup. Just to be clear, I was trying to point out why there was reason to think your choices would matter, since they had all along, up until the end.
posted by pts at 9:34 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it is all an allegory about working under EA.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:15 PM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wasn't annoyed about Diana Allers/Jessica Chobot (I didn't know her voice actor was an IGN journalist until after I finished the game) until the other day when I found out that Emily Wong had been killed off... on twitter!

Bioware got rid of an established character who had history with Shepard (and by having her on Earth during the invasion, too, when in the previous two games she'd worked on the Citadel) so they could have on board the Normandy an IGN reporter most famous for making fanboys excited by licking PSPs. Artistic integrity!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:27 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here was I, about to complain about the absence of Conrad Verner in Mass Effect 3, but it turns out not only that he is in ME3, but a series of choices from earlier games dictate whether and how much he helps the war effort, and whether he dies.

Seriously, that is sort of amazing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:11 AM on March 27, 2012


Just to be clear, I was trying to point out why there was reason to think your choices would matter, since they had all along, up until the end.

I'm having a lot of trouble explaining why I never believed that. Here's attempt #5:

I'm a big believer in the notion that character is plot. In literature, when you want to tell a story, you figure out the setting and the characters, then let them loose and see what they do. This becomes troublesome in games because I, the player am the main character and I'd better be able to do what I want.

Still, some games go with this. The Fallout series, for example, gives you a lot of freedom to be the player you want to be. But this is really hard to pull off in a larger scope. You can't simulate an entire universe.

So the ME series has a pre-written plot. In ME2 for example, it's (IIRC) escape the station, investigate a couple of reaper attacks, get the IFF device and then go after the Big Bad. In addition, there are a bunch of optional quests (recruitment, loyalty missions, etc) but each of these are also pre-written plot chunks and your only options are to take them or leave them. You can't alter them in any way.

You could simulate the entire ME2 story (minus combat and mini-games) with a choose-your-own-adventure book and a separate score card. Sure, stuff you do has effects but it doesn't effect your story in any significant way.

Consider the example of Wrex. What you do in ME determines whether he lives or dies in that game. If he lives, you see him again in ME2 in Grunt's loyalty mission. If he dies, it's some other Krogan but nothing else changes--you do the same mission with the same result. Sure, it's a huge deal for the Krogan people but that all happens beyond the scope of your game.

There are all kinds of other things you can do that have effects but they're all small--a news item or an extra scene here or there. Even in the example you cited, having to choose between the Geth and the Quarian (I managed to save both, BTW), the only thing that changes is that Tali may or may not be on your crew afterward. That's the only effect you will see as a consequence of an act of genocide.

So no, I never had real choice. The Mass Effect writers told me a story and while they let me have a tiny bit of input on it, it was always their story and never mine.

I'm okay with that; I had a good time playing the game. I used to despise games with a pre-written plot but then I grew up and realized that they could still be fun. I just had to know what to expect.
posted by suetanvil at 11:33 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't have a translation but the images say it all:

Herover Nederland!
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:52 AM on March 27, 2012


Yes, it is a choose your own adventure book, but the choices should not be mistaken as mere decoration. Otherwise, a choose your own adventure book is the same as a regular book with the same main story, any four bed room house is equivalent to another four bed room house, one hat is good as the next. Such reasoning dismisses entirely the experience, the meanings aroused, the associations they have with everything else. The sense of choice is not separate, "not tacked on" to the experience of the narrative. The choices provided are no more superfluous than style in writing, accessories in fashion, or decorations in architecture. To dismiss the choices in the game as not real is as mistaken as dismissing the characters in the game as not real, the story of the game as not real, to imagine the game is no more than running and shooting-- what I am saying is, I think you are missing the point.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:43 PM on March 27, 2012


Here was I, about to complain about the absence of Conrad Verner in Mass Effect 3, but it turns out not only that he is in ME3, but a series of choices from earlier games dictate whether and how much he helps the war effort, and whether he dies.

They even go so far as to reference a save game import bug in Mass Effect 2, where Conrad will claim you pulled a gun on him in ME1 no matter what you actually did. If only the rest of the game, and especially the ending, had that kind of branching and work put into it!
posted by ymgve at 5:14 PM on March 27, 2012


Why the Ending of Mass Effect 3 Started a Furor
posted by homunculus at 11:45 AM on March 31, 2012


Bioware Working on Next Dragon Age: "Looking Seriously at Endings"

Skyrim is the Wrong Place to Look for Dragon Age III Inspiration
posted by homunculus at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2012


homunculus: "Why the Ending of Mass Effect 3 Started a Furor"

The striking thing about most of the media coverage over the Mass Effect flap is that no journalist appears to understand why fans are pissed off! Shepard dies, fine; some people are annoyed by that and some aren't. But the whole thing makes no sense! It doesn't even feel like the ending from a totally different story was grafted on because even in the confines of its own five-minute slice of screentime it still doesn't make sense.

I get that video games aren't particularly important in the great scheme of things, and I get that bought-and-paid-for videogame journalists have an incentive to misrepresent the situation to make EA/Bioware took competent, but for a "real" journo to make the same primary-school mistakes as the vidya guys... well, at least IGN had an ulterior motive and didn't just suck.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The WSJ article is credited to Yannick Le Jacq, a contributor to Kill Screen. Whether you think Kill Screen is bought-and-paid-for videogame journalism is probably a matter for your individual conscience.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:41 AM on April 1, 2012


Meh. Anyone who has actually looked into the subject and still thinks the sum of the major complaints about the ending are that Shepard dies or it's not "happy" should probably take another look. I've never heard of Kill Screen but if this is representative of the level of rigour they bring to their work I'm not sure my life is any less rich for it.

The contempt among videogame journalists for those who think the ending sucked is ridiculous. I've wiped a whole load of journos off my list of people ever to listen to ever again not because they don't agree with me but because they're misrepresenting the situation, and misrepresenting it to the benefit of the game's developer and publisher. It's their credibility to lose, I suppose.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2012


Well, what I actually said is that whether or not Kill Screen was bought-and-paid-for journalism was a matter of individual conscience. Your response to that appears to be that you have never heard of Kill Screen, but that you believe, based on something one of their writers kind of sort of said in an entirely different publication, that this ignorance is probably bliss. Which is fine.

Nonetheless, it... kind of feels like people who are saying "I am never listening to this journalist again, but definitely not because s/he doesn't agree with me, but because s/he is ignorant/underresearched/bias and wrong/being paid by EA" may not be in a state of total knowledge of their own motivations. Reading the comments to that article is an interesting experience: the sheer repetition of the same accusations and the same phrases is impressive - "bias", "do some research", "get your head out your ass". And, once again, there are the demands to know how much "they" (presumably EA, rather than the WSJ) paid Le Jacq to write an article not totally in line with the reader's beliefs. Which is useful information, but at this point not really useful information about the ending of Mass Effect 3.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:54 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nonetheless, it... kind of feels like people who are saying "I am never listening to this journalist again, but definitely not because s/he doesn't agree with me, but because s/he is ignorant/underresearched/bias and wrong/being paid by EA" may not be in a state of total knowledge of their own motivations.

I don't have time to keep up with every development in gaming, so I trust journalists to bring issues, interesting games and developments, and controversies to my attention. This is one controversy I've kept up with myself, because I'm a Mass Effect fan, and I've found just about every professional game journalist has misrepresented the balance of fan opinion and fan motivation. I've been following the situation on GAF and Reddit, where people link with rabid joy every article that tackles the fans' stated reasons for the backlash, even if they're not entirely complimentary, and it doesn't happen very often. That it happens at all suggests that there is no magical forcefield separating the opinions of fans from the wider internet, which then leads to the conclusion that the other journalists, who are totally misunderstanding something very straightforward and visible, are either lazy or have an agenda. So I guess it's good to know as then I can just unsub from their feeds; if they're so completely wrong on this, what else are they wrong about?

(And I don't mean wrong as in I don't agree with them; I mean it as in they have built a giant straw fan and attacked its motivations, intelligence, and ability to comprehend art.)

It's funny you should mention the repetition of accusations in the comments, because coverage from the press has been similarly repetitive: fans are "entitled"; changing the ending "sets a bad precedent"; fans are just whining because they didn't get a happy ending, or they are "missing the point" of an artistic statement.

I doubt that many -- or even any? -- journalists received money to give Mass Effect great reviews (which I think it deserves anyway!), and I'm certain no-one not already in the employ of EA and Bioware was paid to defend it against the backlash. But many publications off- and online have been "punished" by publishers for not giving favourable coverage (Edge's fight with EA comes to mind) and it's hard to avoid looking at the coverage in that light.

(Apologies if I accidentally any words; it's Monday morning and my brain is uncooperative.)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:18 AM on April 2, 2012


I doubt that many -- or even any? -- journalists received money to give Mass Effect great reviews (which I think it deserves anyway!), and I'm certain no-one not already in the employ of EA and Bioware was paid to defend it against the backlash.

***

and I get that bought-and-paid-for videogame journalists have an incentive to misrepresent the situation to make EA/Bioware took competent

I don't see how these statements reconcile. Could you help me out?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:52 AM on April 2, 2012


Game publishers have been known to withdraw their advertising, refuse interviews/previews/advanced review copies of games, and dole out other punitive measures to review sites and magazines who give too much negative coverage.

Thus, while EA was not pressing dollars into their hands specifically to give a good review to Mass Effect, or any other game, it is in the financial interest of most game journalists to portray EA and its games in a good light, defend them against criticism, and so on.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:22 AM on April 2, 2012


So, when you say "bought-and-paid-for videogame journalists", who is doing the buying, and who is doing the paying? Or was that just a rhetorical flourish to suggest that journalists are being paid directly by games companies, which you are now rowing back on?

I think you've got a problem here, which is that your rhetoric is getting in the way of looking at the actual issues. And, for that matter, in the way of your access to news sources. Kill Screen, for example, has a high cover price (compared with, say, Edge) in order to avoid relying on advertising revenue from games companies. However, because one of their writers, writing in another publication, is insufficiently in line with what you want people to be saying about the ending of Mass Effect 3, you have written them off.

Whereas, as you say, reddit and GAF (and BSN) are channeling pageviews and positive affirmation to writers who are following their line - but from your perspective, this is not an incentive: people who agree with you have just done their research.

It's fine to have these beliefs - but I think it's also useful to keep an eye on one's own cognitive biases. To keep one's consent active, as it were.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


running order squabble fest: "So, when you say "bought-and-paid-for videogame journalists", who is doing the buying, and who is doing the paying? Or was that just a rhetorical flourish to suggest that journalists are being paid directly by games companies, which you are now rowing back on?"

I'm not rowing back on anything. If I am a journalist writing for a publication kept afloat by advertising from game publishers and I have to be careful not to be too critical of said publishers in case they pull their advertising, then I am bought-and-paid-for. It sucks but it's a reality of the industry.

I've seen many people praising the features on Top Gear over car reviews in magazines because the presenters on the show are free to say what they like about cars where the reviewers are not. Same situation.

"I think you've got a problem here, which is that your rhetoric is getting in the way of looking at the actual issues."

Could you please be more patronising? The issues I'm looking at are: a) Mass Effect's ending was disappointing; and b) game journalists don't seem to understand why people were disappointed by the ending.

"Kill Screen, for example, has a high cover price (compared with, say, Edge) in order to avoid relying on advertising revenue from games companies. However, because one of their writers, writing in another publication, is insufficiently in line with what you want people to be saying about the ending of Mass Effect 3, you have written them off."

I may have a look at Kill Screen some day, if as you say it's independent. Doesn't change my opinion that this particular journalist has failed in his job; not because he's failed to say what I want him to say, but because he's written an article that purports to explain why fans are angry about the ending to Mass Effect and yet says:
The point that all these angry gamers seem to miss is that if this Shepard truly is yours, and thus your story is whatever happens to Shepard as he cavorts around space, his death is the ending of that story. And [spoiler] he does die. There’s no way to bring him back, very few ways to save him.
A cursory look at the various polls around the internet will reveal that Shepard's death and the absence of a happy ending isn't the primary complaint of fans -- although many would like a happy ending, it's true. The primary complaint is that the ending makes no sense. So why not say that? Why claim that fans are upset only because they don't understand that stories end? And why should I bother to read this journalist's other work when this one contains a hole I could drive through?

"Whereas, as you say, reddit and GAF (and BSN) are channeling pageviews and positive affirmation to writers who are following their line - but from your perspective, this is not an incentive: people who agree with you have just done their research."

I don't mean to claim that these journos are somehow unbiased; I wouldn't be surprised if many or all of these were siding with the fans just for the pageviews. But none of these articles came from places I ever visited for gaming news anyway; I didn't follow them and I'm not going to start. I'm annoyed that gaming journalists I previously trusted to be at least reasonably accurate, despite the difficulties of remaining so in an environment like the video game industry, have fucked up.

Disagreeing with me is fine. Saying that Bioware shouldn't give in to fan pressure to change the ending because it would compromise their artistic integrity is fine, although I don't agree. Saying that Bioware shouldn't change the ending because it was set a dangerous precedent is a bit weird since Fallout 3 already did it, but not worth worrying about. Misrepresenting the entire situation is downright strange, and leads me to believe that a journalist was lazy (in which case I feel happy about no longer buying their publication or visiting their site), didn't know where to look (same), or they have another motive (same, whether their motive is financial or not).

Is there much point in continuing this?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:48 AM on April 2, 2012


I'm sorry that you feel that you are being patronized: that was not my intention. I was trying to suggest that your rhetoric was getting in the way of the issues. Which is why I typed those words with my fingers. That last sentence was a bit patronizing, btw.

So, thesis: saying that games journalists are "bought and paid for" by games publishers is a rhetorically inflammatory and unhelpful way of obscuring the actual issue it seeks to raise.

That actual issue is around the difficulty of keeping strong walls between editorial and advertising for publishers of media reliant on advertising (that is, pretty much all media), and also the specific problems around games media - in particular, that games journalists are often badly paid, often lack experience outside games journalism, often work without a clear ethics policy and often rely on free review copies to allow them to do their job, and other freebies to make their job anything other than a grinding process of earning small amounts of money for long hours of playing often mediocre or actively bad games.

(I recently read a tweet from an aspiring games journalist lamenting the fact that he will not be able to afford the next generation of consoles. That's a dangerous position for an industry to be in.)

Ignoring those issues until a game journalist isn't retakey enough, however, and ignoring the same issues in contexts where a game journalist is being suitably retakey, is a limited response, however; it may be satisfying, but it's not an encouragement to look at the systemic issues. However, we are living in a free-market society, and one of the great things about the mass of online publications with limited resources, and indeed the narrow distinction between "journalist" and "fan", is that it's fairly easy to find something pleasing to the individual palette.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:56 AM on April 2, 2012


(If it would help, I could say "however" a few more times. However. However. However.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:28 AM on April 2, 2012


(Palette/Palate, also. Jet lag, you are winning.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:29 AM on April 2, 2012


It seems like we're not going to convince each other, and it's far too nice a night to keep on at this. Thanks, and I hope the jet jag loses eventually :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:59 AM on April 2, 2012


I finally got the game over the weekend since I really liked ME2 and I was fairly convinced that ME3 didn't get the worst part of DA2 (30 missions, five maps). I'm a bit nonplussed about the whole ending controversy given the cheese five hours into the game. Some things are great, some things are transparent and manipulative melodrama, and some lines just don't make sense as delivered. (Hackett: "(TIM) has been able to subvert science to his advantage, it didn't work for him then, it won't work for him now.")
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2012


Survey of (I believe) the /r/masseffect subreddit.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:35 AM on April 3, 2012


That's very interesting - I'm surprised how few people actually said that they hated it... although the same poll at BSN would probably get different results: there have been disappointment ratings over 90% in there, although I imagine with quite a bit of envelope-stuffing. It'll be interesting to hear what BioWare say at PAX East...
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:23 AM on April 5, 2012


I guess someone got the jump on PAX:

BioWare has announced the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut, a free download for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that addresses the controversial ending of the game.
posted by rewil at 7:32 AM on April 5, 2012


That's a really interesting poll. Two things: I would like to see how many people play as ManShep and not FemShep, because I do not inherently trust the former to be right about anything (including my best friend, but he started as ManShep before he understood the way, truth, and light); and the first indoctrination theory question is a little weird without a "don't know what that is" answer, because it's an entirely fan-based and online creation. That doesn't make it less valid as an interpretation, of course it doesn't, but it's a little strange to treat that sort of thing as a canon that everyone answering a poll ought to be familiar with, even if that poll is on reddit.

The "we want confirmation of this theory" part is even more weird than that; you want Bioware to conclusively confirm or deny an interpretation of their work that a majority of a subculture already holds as true? Reddit needs a little more reception theory in their lives.
posted by Errant at 3:27 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The statistics on Mass Effect 2 had about 80% playing BroShep and 20% playing FemShep, I think - I doubt that has changed much.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:36 AM on April 6, 2012


Bioware has detailed statistics on how people play their more recent games. The statistics they've revealed are depressing as hell. For example, in Dragon Age: Origins, only 20% of players ever started a game as a non-human and the big majority of those were elven mages. The fraction of players who finished the game as a non-human is very, very small.

The Human Noble origin was the most generic and boring and it was still by an overwhelming margin the most popular choice.

Similarly, the big majority of players of the Mass Effect series play as a Male Soldier and do not so much as start a game as anything else, much less finish it.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2012


Sounds to me like their games are selling beyond their demographic.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2012


The series is, from all appearances, a space marine shooter with RPG elements (substantial though those elements might be). It's not shocking that fans of space-marine shooters buy it, and play it as a space marine who shoots people.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:09 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not shocking, merely morally woeful and indicative of an irretrievable breakdown in the fabric of our culture.

Actually, more seriously, it means the vast majority of ME players are playing a pretty different game than me. I'd be pretty curious to see how the stats for ending disappointment match up with character choice, also because I'm curious whether the decision to play a non-default Shep matches a more vocal disappointment. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if that was the case; I'd easily believe that people playing more unusual Sheps have more investment in what happens.
posted by Errant at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2012


Maybe they're just playing to, as Ice-T so elegantly put it, "shoot and kill shit without going to jail."
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:07 PM on April 6, 2012


You forgot about having sex with the blue aliens.
posted by Justinian at 11:19 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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