Never Satisfied

“Maybe you’re just like my mother,” a great man once sang, “she’s never satisfied.” It is a truth universally acknowledged that gamers, like the fictional mother of The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, find satisfaction an elusive prize. Ours is a subculture plagued, if not defined, by complaining. There is always something missing from our experiences, some intangible omitted element that, if the designers had only had the sense to include it, would have alchemized the game from lead into gold. Complaining is so ingrained in us that opening an article by complaining about complaining is a viable tactic.

Alright, I’m kidding. But only a little.

Few things have put me in mind of Prince’s figurative progenitor as much as the recent controversy over Mass Effect 3’s ending. The issue — which mutated from Minor Kerfuffle into Full Boondoggle in record time — revolves around a petition created by dissatisfied fans asking developer BioWare to patch in alternative closing sequences. “Whereas,” the petition begins in deepest sincerity, the ending fails on at least four different levels, the petitioners “respectfully request” that additional closing sequences be added to the game. Instead of signatures, the petition asks supporters to make a donation to Child’s Play, the charity founded by Penny Arcade.

I haven’t played Mass Effect 3, much less finished it. For all I know the final cutscene could feature Commander Shepard forgoing saving the galaxy to open her own pancake restaurant. But regardless of the ending’s narrative consistency or emotional impact, there’s a key misunderstanding happening here: This ain’t our story. By demanding the creators change it to suit our preferences, we’re breaking an unstated contract. Not between designer and player, but between magician and audience.

Video games are magic acts in any number of ways, but mostly because they create illusions. Narrative-heavy games like BioWare’s are vehicles for fantasy, for immersing ourselves in other worlds. But they also fool us into thinking their stories are our stories, that we players are in control of our experience. We’re not. We’re merely choosing from options presented to us. The results of those choices — a poignant cutscene, a new mission opportunity — can be rewarding in and of themselves. But just as rewarding is the process of choosing, of engaging in the fantasy not that we are intergalactic heroes, but that we are actually authors of our own story. It's the same feeling we get when a magician convinces us, if only for a second, that by saying Abracadabra we really did make our card disappear. The illusion of agency can be just as exciting as the illusion of magic.

The greatest trick game designers ever pulled is convincing the player they didn’t exist, some might say. But marketing plays a role as well. In the case of BioWare, design and marketing are aligned in a way that’s more effective than in perhaps any other major studio. Fans truly feel ownership of their experiences, despite the games being story-focused, transparently authored products. This speaks to the superb quality of the authorship, but also to a design ethic and marketing strategy that work together effectively to further the illusion of player authority, of being in control. "Our choices matter," the design and the marketing tell us. And because of the complexity and elegance of their interaction design and the depth of their fiction, BioWare can pull it off. They are, in other words, excellent magicians. Brian Taylor’s brilliant analysis links this trend to fan culture and speculates why BioWare fans feel so comfortable petitioning for a new ending and filing false advertising complaints with the Better Business Bureau:

BioWare games exploit these participatory aspects of fan culture in their game design. The company knows that fans like to ask ‘what if?’, to maneuver characters into romantic relationships, and so they build in the options. They appear responsive to the desires of their fans and so it’s not really surprising that rather than use older forms of remixing like fan fiction [...] the fans go to the company itself. Maybe it’s a desire for validation, or some kind of misguided creative impulse.

And this is where the unspoken contract is violated. When you go to a magic show, you understand that you will see a series of illusions, that your senses and your mind will be fooled, and you’re content to plunk down your money for the pleasure of being tricked. If you're lucky, the magician may call you up to the stage as a volunteer, having you enact some minor portion of a trick — usually to distract you and the audience from the real action. This is what narrative-focused video games do: They give you a few moments on stage with the magician, a brief span in the spotlight. But you, the audience participant, aren't the one in control of the performance. So you play along. You don't demand the lovely assistant be sawed in thirds instead of halves, because you are not the one performing the trick.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t subject games to thoughtful critique. As a reviewer, I obviously find a lot of value in that process. If we don’t demand more from games, they won’t get better. If we think something sucks, it can be worthwhile to talk about why it sucks, about how we think it could be improved. But players are not creators, and consumers are not designers. We do not have ultimate say over what the game includes or does not include, despite the convincing responsiveness of corporate social media and the panacea of the almighty patch.

Some argue otherwise, that because games are more malleable than other media, consumers should be encouraged to have a more “participatory” relationship with creators. But applying that logic to a series like Mass Effect, which is decidedly not a playground for collaborative storytelling like Sleep is Death, seems misguided. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how a story-driven game works, miscasting creative choices as bugs to be fixed. Of course, viewed through a more cynical lens, you can imagine the DLC Alternate Ending taking off as the next monetization trend.

Money, it turns out, is central to this controversy. According to their website, the ME3 petitioners have raised more than $78,000 as of press time for Child’s Play since March 13, an absolutely astounding total that could help a lot of sick children. Yet as a Gamer whose Job is With a charity, I’m conflicted about this. Funding is desperately needed in the nonprofit sector, and as long as it comes from legal sources, it’s hard to turn down money. But linking the petition to charity has the effect of diluting the petition's message. If the petitioners felt they were in the right in the first place, why bother with the charitable campaign? On some level, the creators of the petition had to realize they’d come under fire for their “request” to BioWare, so they couched it in philanthropy. They also must have realized how petty their request would seem, so they latched on to charitable giving to lend it an air of respectability. Their “win-win” argument — join together to fix this video game AND help some sick kids! — encourages people to support their position without resorting to too much critical thought. Nevermind the actual charity itself or the mission it pursues. You can feel satisfied knowing your outrage is going to a good cause. Giving to charity to insulate yourself from criticism is a time-honored tactic of the terminally disingenuous. One hopes that's not the case here.

Yet clearly, BioWare believes in the petitioners' sincerity. In a supremely ironic twist, I had to change the ending of this article after yesterday's announcement from BioWare's Dr. Ray Muzyka that ME3 developers are now working on "game content initiatives" which, if they aren't new endings, will at least "provide more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey." I don't even want to begin to parse Dr. Ray's statement or speculate about what BioWare's reaction to this controversy signifies. There have already been arguments on both sides, some calling it a blatant cash grab and some calling it a new standard for studio responsiveness. My gut feeling is that no matter what this new content ends up being, a good number of the petitioners still won't be satisfied. Eventually, they'll realize they'll never be — until they're the magicians on stage pulling rabbits out of hats.

Comments

wordsmythe wrote:
Vin wrote:

This nonsense about the Official Rules of Artist-Audience Interaction kills me. I've never seen that kind of opinion in art school, but maybe it's different in content creator college?

I've been to galleries where someone besides a classmate or instructor said out loud that a painting was "bad" and went on with "What the artist needs to do is ... ." These are no more the people you want at your show than the "My six year old could do this!" folks.

I suppose the difference here is that you're not forced to read those polls or threads or emails. You only participate out of choice. In your example, the "interruption" is to your experience... as if these people are coming into your living room and ruining your experience of the game.

It's not the same.

ElCapitanBSC wrote:

It's like donating to a cause about cancer research in the hope that an information freedom group will acquiesce to your demands. It mixes the message and is only happening so people feel guilty about calling them out or not supporting the new ending. "Oh, you don't want to donate to a new ending? I guess you hate children AND 'good' endings."

Who are you to tell them what their intentions are? You are saying that the donations are just to legitimize the complains and the people donating are saying that they wanted to show how serious they were in a non-destructive manner.

And what about the Humble bundles? They tie child's play into the sales of their own games and the whole thing is about selling games, not donating to charity.

paketep wrote:

This article is apologism at its worst.

I'm not going to ask Bioware to change the ending, but hell if I won't say what an enormous pile of sh*t that ending was, and hell if I don't say how low Bioware has fallen between broken promises (yeah, lots of endings depending on the decissions we made in the three games), unacceptable DLC (if you really believe the Ashes DLC wasn't ripped off the main game I have a pretty silver bridge to sell you) and unacceptable DRM (Origin), amongst other reasons.

For me, the only consequence is that I will never again buy a Bioware game.

Oh, and Dr. Muzyka can go to hell with his condescending apology. At least be a man and admit you f*cked up!.

Pretty sure the article doesn't say that you can't be unhappy with the game. It agrees exactly with your second sentence in saying that asking to change the ending is not something that should be done.

kyrieee wrote:
ElCapitanBSC wrote:

It's like donating to a cause about cancer research in the hope that an information freedom group will acquiesce to your demands. It mixes the message and is only happening so people feel guilty about calling them out or not supporting the new ending. "Oh, you don't want to donate to a new ending? I guess you hate children AND 'good' endings."

Who are you to tell them what their intentions are? You are saying that the donations are just to legitimize the complains and the people donating are saying that they wanted to show how serious they were in a non-destructive manner.

And what about the Humble bundles? They tie child's play into the sales of their own games and the whole thing is about selling games, not donating to charity.

I'm not telling them what their intentions are, but pointing out why Tycho is uncomfortable with his cause being tied up with their cause.

You're gonna have to explain to me how donating to a charity that is unrelated to changing the ending in a video game shows me how serious you are about changing the ending. It shows me how serious you are about the causes Child's Play stands for, but donating money to Child's Play does not (and should not) say anything about how much you like ME3's ending.

As for the Humble Bundle, yeah, it's pretty weird, but none of your payments go to Child's Play if you don't want them to. You get to choose where the money goes: devs, charity, or the website guys. I guess the CP option is there if you're fundamentally opposed to the idea of paying for content so you want the money to go to charity. It's a bonus option that's there and you decide whether money goes into it or not. You're right, though, it's ethically weird, but it's also not required of anyone buying a bundle in the same way that supporting the Take Back ME3 Ending people is tying the financial sum of the support into the power of the public opinion.

Or maybe it is. Hm...I need to think more on this.

In any case, part of the reason Child's Play wants to be dissociated with Retake Mass Effect is because it's causing confusion among the pledgers:

[Child's Play project manager] Jamie [Dillion] has been buried under mail about this situation. Apparently some of the people giving to the cause seemed to think that they were paying for a new ending to Mass Effect. She’s been asked what the goal is, and how much they need to raise in order to get the ending produced. We’ve also been contacted by PayPal due to a high number of people asking for their donations back. This is in addition to readers who simply couldn’t understand how this was connected to Child’s Play’s mission. We were dealing with a lot of very confused people, more every day, and that told us we had a problem.
demonicmurry wrote:
HedgeWizard wrote:
demonicmurry wrote:

I really dislike how people are placing their personal politics into this idea of the "misuse" of Child's Play.

Go ahead and have a fund raiser whose explicit aim is to raise money. Don't tie a petition to raising money when those two activities have NOTHING to do with each other. THAT'S the problem.

TANNHAUSERED by El Capitan! Well said!

If you're drawing a line here it's cause your placing a personal stake because you disagree with these people.

No, it means in this particular instance, I am having a conversation about it. I don't agree in any of the other instances where charities are improperly used as a moral shroud for something completely unrelated to the aim of the group either. I just don't happen to be contributing to a thread about the implications of those instances.

Also, if you'd read any of my other posts in this thread, you'd know I am ambivalent about CPs use here in this instance. I love CP and would love more money to come to them, but I don't believe this is the right way to make that happen.

I don't know yet if ME3 has a terrible ending. I don't know if I would want to join the petition to change it. I frankly don't care about that part of the equation, and so I am not agreeing or disagreeing with "these people." I don't care for the style being employed by some, which is the point I am trying to make, and others are implying I draw a harder line on. That's not so. But since I don't appear to be effective in getting people to understand that, I bow out of this thread.

Alright, alright. I'll concede that Child's Play is probably misused in this situation. I was more perturbed that these vocal fans were able to use this to this in a positive way, though for a misguided cause, and were getting scolded for it. If Tycho is uncomfortable with this and aligning Child's Play with the petition, then he should not have signed off. And because it's become an increasing concern he should turn down the money if he thinks it will hurt the charity.

Maybe they should have tried to connect the petition with other non-profits such as the Participatory Culture Foundation, Gamers Outreach, IDGA Foundation, or Get-Well-Gamers. The situation is, they want to raise money for a good cause and speak with their wallets. And it's tough to find a charity that is perfectly aligned with this cause. The way I saw it was, there are a passionate group of fans that really wanted their voices to be heard on an issue and that wanted to show how important it was to them. And since I think everyone agrees online petitions don't do crap, they wanted to gain traction by doing something positive with the passionate response regarding the ending.

I mean, these fans are raising money for a good cause. And whether you disagree with them (which I do) I am glad they actually did something commendable. I mean, they raised $80,000 for Child's Play. That's awesome. Maybe, it's because I'm not invested in this ME3 controversy that I don't see the adverse effect of this. But honestly, I really don't see the harm for fans that want to raise money for a cause just because they dislike an ending.

Quote taken from the Retake Mass Effect 3 site:
"The Retake Mass Effect - Child's Play donation drive is a community driven effort to bring positive attention to our petition for an alternate ending to the fantastic Mass Effect series. The Child's Play charity was chosen as a charity started by gamers to provide video games for the patients at Children's Hospitals all over the world.

We would like to dispel the perception that we are angry or entitled. We simply wish to express our hope that there could be a different direction for a series we have all grown to love."

"Our choices matter," the design and the marketing tell us.

By submitting this point, you lost your argument.
To elaborate from your metaphor, "Your choices matter" is what's displayed on the billboard for the magic show, and the magician failed to pull off this illusion. It is magician Bioware who messed up the contract, not the audience. It's not that complicated, although the resulting discussion certainly is.

ElCapitanBSC wrote:

Or maybe it is. Hm...I need to think more on this.

The way I see it is the following:

Events like Desert Bus for Hope, et. al aren't much different than your run of the mill Walk for Hunger or Race for the Cure. People are giving up their free time to raise awareness about an issue and pledges are donating money directly to that cause.

Humble Indie Bundle isn't much different than a charity auction or things like Livestrong bracelets. People are offering up a tangible good with some or all of the price being donated to a charity. This raises awareness about the issue and money is donated directly to the cause.

Where the ME3 thing hits the rocks is that they're essentially co-opting Child's Play. People are donating money to the charity not because they support the idea behind Child's Play but rather because they are trying to show BioWare/EA they are serious about their commitment. Or at least as serious as $1-3 sent via PayPal is over a simple signature on an online petition. The catch is that the ME3 thing does nothing to raise awareness about the charity or its cause. It's just an established bucket for people to throw money into in an attempt to get their cause recognized when the number gets big enough.

If Tycho is uncomfortable with this and aligning Child's Play with the petition, then he should not have signed off.

Was there ever any record of Child's Play saying this was ok at the start? My uninformed impression is that they turned a blind eye until it became a problem for their staffers.

demonicmurry wrote:

And since I think everyone agrees online petitions don't do crap, they wanted to gain traction by doing something positive with the passionate response regarding the ending.

That's really the crux of it now, isn't it? While I don't agree with the cause as it is, I feel like us consumers only really have one way to say anything (effectively) and that's by not buying stuff. You're right in that this was more "on the offensive" and I applaud the creativity, just not the choice of Child's Play.

I think my level of engagement is such that not buying something is the most I'm interested in doing, but it's worth thinking about ways for consumers to express discontent that don't come off as entitled or whiny (this may not be possible).

It wasn't a "blind eye." My guess is it was probably more along the lines of a "OMG PAXEast is in how many days!!!!??? I CAN SEE NOTHING ELSE!"

(edited to remove inference that I have any secret info about this)

momgamer wrote:

It wasn't a "blind eye." My guess is it was probably more along the lines of a "OMG PAXEast is in how many days!!!!??? I CAN SEE NOTHING ELSE!"

Good point. Regardless, the implication from the post on the site seems to indicate they hadn't given any sort of blessing/condemnation in the first place.

ElCapitanBSC wrote:

You're gonna have to explain to me how donating to a charity that is unrelated to changing the ending in a video game shows me how serious you are about changing the ending. It shows me how serious you are about the causes Child's Play stands for, but donating money to Child's Play does not (and should not) say anything about how much you like ME3's ending.

You don't think that backing up your opinion with a concrete action signifies that you're more serious about it? Can you only protest through negative or pointless actions (like sitting on the pavement)? The idea behind it was to do something more constructive than shouting at BioWare. The CP thread on the BioWare forums was by far the most well mannered thread because the people donating were the ones who wanted to voice their complaints in a civil manner.

shoptroll wrote:

Or at least as serious as $1-3 sent via PayPal is over a simple signature on an online petition.

The average amount was around 20$.

IMAGE(http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l4whztskoW1qa9g0zo1_500.png)

kyrieee wrote:
ElCapitanBSC wrote:

You're gonna have to explain to me how donating to a charity that is unrelated to changing the ending in a video game shows me how serious you are about changing the ending. It shows me how serious you are about the causes Child's Play stands for, but donating money to Child's Play does not (and should not) say anything about how much you like ME3's ending.

You don't think that backing up your opinion with a concrete action signifies that you're more serious about it? Can you only protest through negative or pointless actions (like sitting on the pavement)? The idea behind it was to do something more constructive than shouting at BioWare. The CP thread on the BioWare forums was by far the most well mannered thread because the people donating were the ones who wanted to voice their complaints in a civil manner.

I'm serious about stopping world hunger! I'm going to donate money to an organization dedicated to curing cancer to prove how serious I am! It makes more sense to me to donate to the charities demonicmurray was mentioning like the Participatory Culture Foundation (whose goals are centered around video tools, so still not even quite right).

You're right, concrete action makes you seem more serious, but you have to point that action in a relevant direction or you're just snapping your fingers and claiming it keeps elephants away.

kyrieee wrote:

The average amount was around 20$.

Interesting. I thought I read there were 50k donations totaling $80k. I'm not following this that closely so I'll defer to your numbers.

shoptroll wrote:
kyrieee wrote:

The average amount was around 20$.

Interesting. I thought I read there were 50k donations totaling $80k. I'm not following this that closely so I'll defer to your numbers.

The facebook group had 50k members
# of donations was 4k

ElCapitanBSC wrote:

I'm serious about stopping world hunger! I'm going to donate money to an organization dedicated to curing cancer to prove how serious I am! It makes more sense to me to donate to the charities demonicmurray was mentioning like the Participatory Culture Foundation (whose goals are centered around video tools, so still not even quite right).

You're right, concrete action makes you seem more serious, but you have to point that action in a relevant direction or you're just snapping your fingers and claiming it keeps elephants away.

Well it's certainly possible to criticise the effectiveness of the whole campaign, I just don't think it was malicious. I think that people from the outside looking in grouped the people donating together with the people driving BW's community manager off twitter. Maybe that's inevitable, but I think it's also unfair and unfortunate.

I also don't think your analogy works, because there are charities that go directly to stopping world hunger, but I still get your point.

kyrieee wrote:

Well it's certainly possible to criticise the effectiveness of the whole campaign, I just don't think it was malicious. I think that people from the outside looking in grouped the people donating together with the people driving BW's community manager off twitter. Maybe that's inevitable, but I think it's also unfair and unfortunate.

On an aside, I wonder if this would've played out slightly differently if there wasn't already some bad blood in the waters over the Deception novel and the harassment of that designer a couple weeks ago?

Sean's words from last month seem oddly prescient given this incident.

So tempted to carry some actual debate over ME3's ending into this thread. But I feel I should resist putting it here and save it for the spoilers thread.

BNice wrote:

You are correct, players are not the creators but players demanding change won't invoke change. It will always be the developers choice and players and critics should continue to relay feedback and criticisms...

Developers are also independent of one another. When developers like Valve and CD Projekt Red decide to make changes based on player feedback it doesn't forcibly make others follow suit.The independence of developers in a creative medium also allows them to approach each situation on a case by case basis and make decisions based on their ideals and goals.

If Bioware decides to change ME3 it will be their decision and their decision alone. What Bioware chooses to do in the specific case of ME3 will not forcibly make developers follow suit and will not blur the line between player and developer on a world wide scale.

Findaer wrote:
kyrieee wrote:

Of course no one has the right to demand any changes, but there's a difference between demanding and requesting. If BioWare came out and said "this is ending represents our vision and we stand by it" then I'm convinced that most of the people requesting a new ending would accept their statement.

I think this is a great point. Right now, I want a new ending. I want them to change or add to the current game so that when I play this game next year, or five years down the line, or 10 years down the line I will be able to play from start to finish and feel like it was one of the greatest games ever. If Bioware comes out and says "This is it. We're sorry you don't like it, but we are not changing it because we believe in what our writers are saying." Then I will stop talking about it and requesting/demanding a different ending.

Excellent posts.

I'm definitely sad to see Bioware enduring some asinine folks acting as if additions/alterations are some sort of foregone conclusion or entitlement. It is indeed their baby, and they should indeed have full power over what happens to it. Good thing they do have that say so.

Not much else to say. I think I can meet the article half-way, certainly in expressing some sympathy with some of what the folks at Bioware are experiencing, even if I have trouble with what I think are some pretty absolute statements on the integrity of art and the roles of creators & recipients.

Thanks to OzymandiasAV for posting the actual text of the donation-linked petition. The text is far more reasonable than I'd been led to believe by the summaries I'd seen posted elsewhere around the net. (Not calling you out, Mr. Grant. You didn't spend much time on the substance of the petition, but in what you did I didn't think you misrepresented it. I'm talking about impressions I carried in.) The request for a "heroic ending" goes over my own line - and also humourously contradicts the "we believe" bit that was just some lines above it. Otherwise, though, it sounds fine to me. Not saying I agree with it or would sign it, but I find the bits I actively disagree with to be limited.

--------------

What saddens me to see in discussions like this comment thread is how much the extremes seem to be successfully entrapping a much bigger middle, or at least what I hope is much bigger. Even within the general category of "people who didn't like the ending," I have yet to see much real agreement between people over why they fall in that group - just as much active disagreement ("It was too sad!" "Less downbeat and I wouldn't have liked it!") as commonality. Much less agreement on what, if anything, should be communicated to or requested of Bioware beyond expressiing "I'm disappointed, here's why." A 50k facebook group is an impressive number of people to get together, but still small compared to the player base at large.

At their better moments, these conversations have posts like this:

Elysium wrote:

"I don't like the end of Mass Effect" is a fine comment to make and dialog to have.

DanB wrote:

All three sentiments can be perfectly true. They might well have delivered their artistic vision and it might well be that their vision sucks. Starwars Ep1 was Lucas's artistic vision too.

But at their worst, a broad brush tends to get painted in these threads, until the response to ME3 is apparently supposed to boil down to just a couple groups. Suddenly anyone who is upset with the ending somehow believes Bioware should just spend their time implementing fan fiction. (Oh, and "the complaints" are of course all of a kind, with anyone who dislikes the ending holding any and all complaints that the beholder has ever seen expressed. All of them.) Whilst anyone who is concerned or upset about the feedback Bioware is getting, or about how these events shape the future, is somehow dismissing all criticism of the ending. Eventually someone has to step back and try and break that cycle - at least someone does, thank goodness for GWJ - but inevitably it occurs again.

Just look at this piece. J.P lays out a decent argument addressed against a particular niche of responses to the ending. As far as I can see, this article was about a pretty limited category of some responses to the ending, and was trying to paint with a fairly fine brush. But here in the comments, people like paketep deride it as "apologism" or as targeted at critiques of the ending in general. And plenty of other posts before that follow the pattern.

Is this really what all this is about? Or have a few (or okay, maybe many if you include the entire internets) trolls set us all into chasing each other's tails?

I keep hearing that the crazy people are out there, making all sorts of insane demands about what Bioware totally has to do next. I even see them, very rarely. Most identifications of such people, however, seem to be mistaken, if indeed there was any intent to call someone out as doing that at all. Maybe that's just because I don't venture outside these forums into the BSN that often? I don't know. It's out there, sure, but somehow, I'm not sure how anyone is getting exposed to an actual high volume of shrillness - especially in comparison to the volume of less shrill - unless you work for Bioware, or you are looking for it.

I find it ironic that the spoilers thread has been noted as a pressure cooker more than once now. There have definitely been some unfortunate posts in there, sure, but on average I've found it far more insightful and respectful than the comment threads for the latest ME-releated articles.

A phrase that comes to mind about the various discussion threads and labelling various groups, is "play the ball, not the player".

I find it really lazy to dismiss someone by applying a label to them while not tackling the topic. If you agree or disagree, just say that and if you've nothing further to add, just leave it as that rather than attempting to inflate the importance of what you're saying with words of no consequence.

Observations, in no particular order.

1) Like it or not, in the age of DLC and patches, there is a precedent within this medium for amendments to mechanics, content and narrative. This may be an inherent weakness with the medium that developers view their works as living, breathing products, subject to change based on the feedback of their audience. Direct comparisons to books, film and television ignore this precedent.

2) Bioware has itself set a precedent to amend narrative. The most recent Mass Effect book was so ill-received for glaring errors that Bioware has agreed to release a "patched" version... of a book. It's a brave new world folks. Bioware may be reaping what it sews.

3) Speaking of Bioware, no one forced Bioware to do anything. They could have let the ending go as is. People (notable professional writers here) are criticizing fans for destroying the integrity of art. That's funny because as far as I know, it's not the fans who decided to revise the ending. It was Bioware. From a business point of view, how does this make sense? My guess is that if they didn't address the issues with the ending, fans would not buy the DLC which are likely already being produced. Bioware made the choice to give into pressure. If anyone should be criticized, it's them.

4) From what I've read, Bioware isn't changing the ending--only adding content to clarify it. Deus ex machina is artistically bankrupt; I think Bioware can redeem itself as the vanguard of video game narratives with some clarification.

5) I notice many of the critics of the drive to change the ending either a) didn't play Mass Effect 3, b) don't care much for the Mass Effect universe and/or c) are closely linked to the video game industry, either through journalism or development. I think that's interesting, but can't think of any conclusions to draw from that.

6) Critics of the petition are quick to highlight the vitriol being put forth by some fans. Remember that a large part of the internet, particularly when discussing video games, is immature. A poor ending + Internet anonymity + A rabid (good and bad) fan base = A forgone conclusion. I surprised that people are latching onto this. How many threats of boycotts and other manifestations of internet rage have there been in the last year alone? It just seems like the critics are just as guilty of ad hominem as the angsty folks saying that Bioware owes them something. Rather than address the concerns, I see a lot of critics, especially from the professional press, straight up insulting people who would be interested in seeming some clarification.

7) The Child's Play stuff is gross.

That's it for now. Oddly, I feel more strongly about the conversation surrounding the Mass Effect debate, rather than Mass Effect itself. I thought the ending was so poor that I don't really want to get involved in the minutia of whatever Bioware ends up doing to the story. I'm sure it'll be an improvement, but for now, I'm going to keep on watching this situation. It's fascinating

Grubber788 wrote:

5) I notice many of the critics of the drive to change the ending either a) didn't play Mass Effect 3, b) don't care much for the Mass Effect universe and/or c) are closely linked to the video game industry, either through journalism or development. I think that's interesting, but can't think of any conclusions to draw from that.

Really ? To be honest, i thought that the ending was similar to the sort of thing that i envisaged before i started it, bearing in mind the nature of the task that was to be undertaken. And there were clues dropped in the game about something overarching. I didn't mind that at all, nor will it stop me from further runthroughs.

A point I read over on reddit that I think is worth stealing: It doesn't (or shouldn't) really matter what the players think, what matters is whether Bioware are happy with the ending they put in their game. If it's not, then they've got the means to fix it, improve it, or change it to what they want for their game. If it is, then they need to stand by it and maybe explain it better so that they bring the players to understand it.

Scratched wrote:

If it is, then they need to stand by it and maybe explain it better so that they bring the players to understand it.

Why?

That worked out so well for Eidos when Harvey Smith explained the theory surrounding unified ammo.

Since I haven't finished ME 2 much less 3, I have to wonder if people are angry because they didn't see all the possible outcomes of their actions (eg, the ending of Dragon Age Origins)? If so, I think it's highly unrealistic for fans to expect that from a franchise that spans 3 games and 100+ hours of play. Or are they angry because they did a lot of extra work getting ready for the war effort but in the end none of it mattered? In that case I think players have a legit reason to be mad.

I'd also like to say that IMHO what makes Bioware games great is not the destination but the twists and turns of the journey. For example, in Dragon Age you know in the end the archdemon is going to be defeated somehow. What makes it a great game are all the character interactions, plot twists and side quests.

jdzappa wrote:

Since I haven't finished ME 2 much less 3, I have to wonder if people are angry because they didn't see all the possible outcomes of their actions (eg, the ending of Dragon Age Origins)? If so, I think it's highly unrealistic for fans to expect that from a franchise that spans 3 games and 100+ hours of play. Or are they angry because they did a lot of extra work getting ready for the war effort but in the end none of it mattered? In that case I think players have a legit reason to be mad.

I'd also like to say that IMHO what makes Bioware games great is not the destination but the twists and turns of the journey. For example, in Dragon Age you know in the end the archdemon is going to be defeated somehow. What makes it a great game are all the character interactions, plot twists and side quests.

+1

Jayhawker wrote:
Scratched wrote:

If it is, then they need to stand by it and maybe explain it better so that they bring the players to understand it.

Why?

That worked out so well for Eidos when Harvey Smith explained the theory surrounding unified ammo.

Because unified ammo sucked (a bit) as a gameplay aspect, rather than concluding the story of your 3 game epic. I think they pretty much copped that DE:IW's main failings were due to misinterpreting player feedback and listening to their closed inner circle of friends.

jdzappa wrote:

Since I haven't finished ME 2 much less 3, I have to wonder if people are angry because they didn't see all the possible outcomes of their actions (eg, the ending of Dragon Age Origins)?

Given the range, I'm sure there's someone out there whose beef with the ending is accurately characterized as such. But I don't think that's been much of a trend.

jdzappa wrote:

Or are they angry because they did a lot of extra work getting ready for the war effort but in the end none of it mattered? In that case I think players have a legit reason to be mad.

Some people definitely do feel this way, yes.

Bioware shouldnt change the ending because players want it. They should change it because they believe it is really bad as well, and want to correct a mistake of rushing it, or whatever the reaon might be.
If they don't think their own ending is bad, then their writing team got bigger problems than Mass Effect 3 anyway

Edit: Reading some of Biowares statements on the ending (of which there are very few), it sounds like they changed the ending a lot near the end. In earlier revisions it had a boss fight, and a few longer segments detailing the ending - the TIM actor was called back in very late to redo some of his dialogue to fit the cuts etc.
They removed these things because they thought they did not fit in, and were too detailed, which sounds very reasonable (Personally I dislike end-boss fights in this kind of game).
But I somehow get the impression that given more time, they might have changed the ending fundamentally, to accomodate their new decisions to not have a boss fight and not explain too much. However time limits might have resulted in them just cutting stuff in the ending and otherwise leave it alone, resulting in the abrupt and meaningless ending that is in ME3 now.

If Bioware themselves feel they could do a better job with the ending, and arent too hapy with it either, then I dont see a problem if they change it.
If they love the ending, and end up only changing it because of player-demand, then it could be a bad thing for story-telling in games.

jdzappa wrote:

I'd also like to say that IMHO what makes Bioware games great is not the destination but the twists and turns of the journey. For example, in Dragon Age you know in the end the archdemon is going to be defeated somehow. What makes it a great game are all the character interactions, plot twists and side quests.

Definitely. It is interesting how pretty much everyone seems to say that Mass Effect 3 was a great game, even when they passionately hate the last 5 minutes.
It is precisely because the rest of Mass Effect is so great, that people are surprised (and some angry) that those last 5 minutes are so terrible.

It reads like he's trying to talk about the ending without really talking about it.