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Posted by patrickklepek

(Note: This article doesnot contain spoilers for the endings of Mass Effect 3, Lost or The Sopranos).

Suddenly, a bright light appears, and it’s all over. After years of investment and hours of discussion with friends, just a few minutes of credits later, it’s like it never happened.

Whether it’s putting the the Island to rest during the series finale of Lost or witnessing the final moments of Commander Shepard’s fight against the Reapers in Mass Effect 3, endings have seemingly impossible tasks.

Mass Effect 3 has only been out for two weeks. Most players haven’t seen how the trilogy ends, but players who've already made it back to Earth have awfully strong opinions about how BioWare chose to take a bow.

BioWare chose to break its silence yesterday in a blog post by BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka. The Mass Effect 3 team is listening to player feedback, Muzyka explained, and more details would be available in April. At no point did Muzyka announce the ending to Mass Effect 3 would see alterations, and Muzyka contends BioWare will maintain the “integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback.”

Lost, just like Mass Effect, relied on dramatic tension to be fulfilled in each's final moments.

“Endings often just can’t win,” said Entertainment Weekly senior writer, game player and once regular Lost columnist Jeff Jensen to me recently. “Most screenwriters will tell you the hardest part of any movie, any story to tell, is just the end. It’s the thing that changes the most, it’s the endings that are the most fought over among collaborators. They’re the things that are just the hardest to land.”

Retake Mass Effect is a petition by fans asking BioWare to provide alternate endings to Mass Effect 3 that, in their eyes, better represents the choices made by players across all three games, explains the final, twisty, head-scratching moments, includes a “heroic” finish in line with the series’ themes of success against incredible odds, and much more. To make their point, Retake Mass Effect has raised $77,514 for the Child’s Play charity.

“We would like to dispel the perception that we are angry or entitled,” reads a statement on Retake Mass Effect. “We simply wish to express our hope that there could be a different direction for a series we have all grown to love.”

Other fans, like Spike Murphy in California, went a step further. Murphy filed a false advertising complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can read Murphy’s BBB filing here, in which he contends BioWare and Electronic Arts mislead the public about what would be in Mass Effect 3’s ending.

In his complaint, Murphy pointed to comments from BioWare designers, writers and producers about how player choices would directly impact the ending in very nuanced ways, creatures like the Rachni would play a huge role, the endings would not be as simple as A, B, C, and big mysteries would finally be answered.

Many of Murphy's arguments fall into semantic buckets, however, which makes his case difficult to make.

The response to Murphy’s decision by other fans was not completely supportive. Members of Retake Mass Effect pushed back on Murphy, painting his move as childish and over the line, but Murphy defended his decision.

“I figured this would be a big way to keep some pressure on BioWare and EA to actually respond to the fan base and give them a real response or explanation for what happened,” he told me.

Murphy, who works in advertising and political outreach, admitted to not expecting much to actually happen because of the filings--it’s a PR move on his part to push BioWare towards addressing his feelings about the ending.

“My hope is that we see some kind of change or addition to the ending that explains it,” he said. “The first step would certainly be an acknowledgement that this ending was not the ending that they said they were going to give us. That legitimizes the complaints.”

It’s unclear if BioWare’s statement yesterday accomplishes that, but Murphy said it felt “pretty good.”

Jensen, who’s finished the first two games and is currently working through Mass Effect 3, has seen audience reactions like this many times before while covering TV and film. Jensen had a weekly column at Entertainment Weekly analyzing each new episode of Lost, including its polarizing finale. The ending to Lost prompted an intense dialogue, which left one batch of fans satisfied, another batch of fans still yelling at the showrunners through Twitter.

Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, who helped write Ridley Scott's upcoming Prometheus, even commented about Mass Effect 3 on Twitter, a humorous tip of the hat to fans, the reaction and the developers at BioWare.

“In entertainment, and especially in the mediums of television and video games, they are ultimately service industries,” said Jensen. “Which is to say the customer is always right, and that’s going to be frustrating for storytellers to hear because ultimately you exist, your product exists, at the whims and desire of your consumer base. If they’re happy, if they’re unhappy, they’re right. Even if they’re wrong, they’re right. You have to deal with it.”

Whether it’s happening passively on TV or actively through a video game, endings to massive epics become about catharsis, a deeply personal release from everything that’s built up over the time you’ve spent inside this narrative.

With Lost, I spent every week watching that show with friends. We laughed, cried, and yelled at the show for years. I watched the series finale with the same friends, and we mostly cried. That moment with Jack? With his...? Man.

“Here, we really do see analogs to things like Lost or The Sopranos,” said Jensen, “where a fanbase that’s large and rabid and loyal and passionate and really, really invested--they’re not only getting the final game or final episode, the end of a story, they’re getting the door slammed on a huge part of their lives, a significant thing in their lives. To that end, an ending, then, must give you something more.”

The "numbers" were important to Lost, and mythology was key to some people's enjoyment.

I’ve been unable to fill Lost’s void after it went off the air, and maybe I never will. While I sympathize with those who didn’t find it to have the necessary amount of catharsis, I don’t agree with them. Though I cannot muster the same passion about Mass Effect 3, I get it.

“There seems to be a similarity here with Mass Effect 3,” said Jensen, “with a fanbase that has gone through these games and come to the end, and they want the full meal catharsis--they want everything. They want a heroic end, or the possibility of a heroic end. They want an emotional sendoff, they want resolution of certain mysteries, and they all want it to be coherent and skillfully done. It sounds like Mass Effect just didn’t nail that landing.”

The Sopranos and Lost's endings both caused waves. It’s an important moment for a game to cause the same level of ire, resentment and discussion, even if much of it seems negative at the moment. As Jensen pointed out, most people came around to appreciating what The Sopranos creator David Chase tried, and maybe the same thing will happen to Mass Effect 3 one day.

“I think Mass Effect, as a franchise, these three games taken together, I just can’t see how it’s not regarded as anything less than a landmark,” said Jensen. “There’s so many things to enjoy about these games and this world and the creative accomplishment of this series than just those final moments.”

For many, though, those final moments were everything.

Posted by Tylea002

A nice summation; those final moments were everything to many people - it didn't help that BioWare market the game on how you shape those final moments, or at least heavily implied that.

Edited by SolidOcelot

I simply want a 3 hour Q&A session with the folks at BioWare, I want to get their side of the story, specifically to ask why is the ending filled with plot holes. Was there more to it initially, were they rushed, did they run out of ideas.

They seem to be building to a certain conclusion one minute and what follows instead is illogical.

The "cycle" is clearly not inevitable since a few hours earlier you quell a century old war and have the Geth helping quarians rebuild their planet. Not to mention you spend hours helping EDI a synthetic come to gripes with her new "life". The Geth are even made out to be sympathetic and where supposed to believe no matter our choices this is how the game ends.

I hope what BioWare ends up addressing is simply the holes in the story, closure would be nice, but I can live without it.

Posted by Beld


Posted by Popskinz

Let's hope all the moaning and crying can finally come to an end.

Posted by NocturnusFatalis

Mass Effect 3 didn't have an ending.

Posted by Tylea002

@Popskinz: Welcome to the internet, leave your optimistic and hopeful views at the door, please.

Posted by Morningstar

@NocturnusFatalis said:

Mass Effect 3 didn't have an ending.

Posted by Brewmaster_Andy

Great write-up, Patrick.

Edited by mutha3



"artistic integrity"
Posted by Y2Ken

Interesting perspective, Patrick. It's always going to be a difficult balance between giving the fans what they want and telling the story you want to tell; I think in this case there's certainly an argument to be made that the design of the whole series was supposed to give you "what you want" rather than being a fairly tight ending.

Posted by Greenlight13

I don't want a heroic ending like many seem to, but the problem is at the very best the ending is bad, and at the very least it makes absolutely no sense. I won't keep spreading the link to the essay someone wrote about it as it makes me look like a spam-bot, but look for it, it'll change your perspective. I get both sides of the argument about whether or not Bioware should change it, but the fact is most people want them to and they have the technology to do it in a way you can't with TV or movies. I mean sure you COULD air a 5-minute piece of television a month later and bill it as the new ending to Lost, but that's way crazier than releasing a patch or DLC with an alternate ending for a game. Bioware probably SHOULD stick to their guns and we should all just accept that's how it ended and remember how good the games were to play (ME3 is 5-stars for me), but I can't help but be selfish and want the rumors to be true and for them to release another ending. To be honest I'd be happy with a more fleshed out version of the existing endings, I just felt short-changed by their length and lack of variety.

Posted by laserbolts

I just can't wait for all this whining about Mass Effect to be over. The sad thing about it is that there will just be another game to take its place.

Posted by catpowerd

@mutha3 said:

"artistic integrity"

Hahaha that's gotta be shoped right?

Edited by Carac

If the indoctrination theory is true, they planned all of this. It would also explain why they want to wait until more people have finished it to say, "You all got tricked/indocrinated...and here's the battle that happened after the battle of shepard's will vs reaper Indocrtination that was happening in his head" (the ending we've seen).

The only ending where Shepard breathes in the rubble where he was hit by the Harbringer blast on earth was the one the reapers didn't want you to pick and the one that symbolizes not giving into indoctrincation. The left choice being that of the illusive man, and the central choice being that of Saren. We've all been played/tricked by indoctrination...I hope. I mean, why else would the trees and bushes from your dreams show up on the field around you after being hit by Harbinger's beam. Why would the narrow path to the console in the citadel be an amalgam of ship designs throughout Shepard's story (including the Shadow Broker's), all of that "Reaper vignetting" in the next to last scene. The last scene where Anderson represents Shepard's will fighting Indoctrination and the Illusive man representing Indoctrination. And the "choice of three" being the Reaper's test to see if indoctrination worked.

Posted by Olivaw
“Most screenwriters will tell you the hardest part of any movie, any story to tell, is just the end. It’s the thing that changes the most, it's the endings that are the most fought over among collaborators. They’re the things that are just the hardest to land.”

Which is super funny, since that Final Hours app basically says that it was just Casey Hudson and Mac Walters who wrote the ending, and they didn't let anyone else see it before it was too late to change it!

Posted by Davin

Nice article, I like it better then the post from Alex yesterday where he let his personal views seep into the news story a bit. His twitter clearly showed how he felt.

Posted by Jolt92

Great article.

Posted by DukesT3

Leave it as it is.

Posted by Dustpan

@catpowerd: Nope.

Edited by DaBuddaDa

Great perspective Patrick. The key point for the people against the ME3 ending is that evidence from behind the scenes in Bioware shows what was shipped is not what they had planned to be the ME3 ending and does not reflect the creator's vision accurately; it had been compromised for a slew of reasons, none of which having any consideration for "art" or "storytelling." I think of the retooling of the ending that's rumored is akin to what happened with Bladerunner in some ways, although they're clearly not parallels.

Edited by mutha3
@catpowerd said:

@mutha3 said:

"artistic integrity"

Hahaha that's gotta be shoped right?

Wanted to include the "BUY DLC!!!!!" message that pops up after the credits and a screen of shepard creepily hugging Tali/Garrus in his/her bed from ME2(they added the Garrus/Tali romance because fans wanted it), but the piece of shit, buggy post editor didn't let me:(
Whether videogames are art or not is a moot point to me. If Bioware chooses to expand on the endings so that they make sense rather than retcon them(which is what that blog seems to imply), I don't see the conflict.
Edited by Nasar7

I agree with Damon Lindelof. Video games are part of a service industry. They are a product, nothing more, that would not survive without the consumers. The consumers therefore have a right to bitch about whatever it is they don't like and demand change. Video games are not art, at least not yet.

Posted by FluxWaveZ

@catpowerd said:

Hahaha that's gotta be shoped right?


Edited by Stealthmaster86

Supernatural said it best about endings. It may still be on the air, but this is the ending that Eric Kripke wanted.

And personally, if this was the real series finale, I would have consider this one of the greatest last episode ever. Right up there with LOST.

Edited by RVonE
Posted by Harkat

Ultimately, the creators are entitled to decide over their own work. Beyond that, let me say the ending is a fucking mess and a disgrace to the rest of the franchise.

Posted by ItsAJackal

Maybe next time we can pre-order from Best Buy to get the best ending, pre-order from Amazon for the OK ending, and pre-order from Wal-Mart for the Renegade bad ending. If you buy used, you need an online pass to see any of the endings as well.

Posted by MrWiggles

Good article. I think certain people on the internet have acted pathetically to they're dislike of the ending. To play 3 great games and to forget all of it because of the very end isn't something i'll be doing. I was disappointed with the ending like many people, It was botched together pretty quickly by the looks of things, I wish they had another year to work on it. but I don't have a memory of a fish and the Mass Effect series was overall a great experience.

Posted by FilipHolm

The fans demands shouldn't come in the way of telling the story you want to tell. Just an opinion I have... Fans like your stuff because of what you're doing, so obviously the way you like to do things is what the fans will like. I think the problems start when developers stop thinking of what they want, and instead just follow the fans guidence... Feedback is one thing, but this whole charade... fuck..

Posted by Kohlstream

It's easy to understand the outrage about the ending when BioWare themsleves (spoilers kinda) were promising that the endings would be completely different to what they actually gave them. They were saying this stuff in Feb 2012, just over a month before release.

Posted by tangmcgame

The ending of Mass Effect in no way matched the tone of the games leading up to it. The ending of Lost did. Lost ended perfectly because it answered everything it needed to. Mass Effect answers practically nothing and really doesn't make much sense if you examine it too closely. I can appreciate what they were maybe trying to do with the ME 3 ending, but I think they forgot their audience when they wrote it. They forgot the two games and 30 hours that came before it.

It's Bioware's right to end the story however they wish, but when their decision is to handbrake, hook a hard left and drive straight off a cliff (cutting to credits as the car hangs in the air), they and everyone else really shouldn't be surprised when the people who loved everything up until that point for what it was are not on board.

Posted by Gravywilde

@NocturnusFatalis said:

Mass Effect 3 didn't have an ending.

Posted by Zaph

Good read.

However TV shows never sold their franchise on the basis of player choice. They had one narrative, a single cannon. Up until the third game was released, player choice and consequences were the cornerstones of Mass Effect- but in the final moments those same philosophies went out the window (along with any logic).

We started the franchise with our own Shepard. We ended it with all having the same Shepard.

Posted by wrecks

Damn, I miss Lost.

Edited by CookieMonster

After seeing all the fuss about it, I have such low expectations for the ending that I might actually enjoy it now.

Posted by Kyodra

I have always had bad vibes about studios changing endings to be more positive for the audience. This was done with the films Blade Runner and Army of Darkness, one ending was changed for the worse (by a lot), the other was about as good as the original. I have not yet seen the ending of Mass Effect 3, and I haven't looked at the promotional material (trailers, interviews, etc.) even though the first two games are my favourites of this generation. I wonder if many people built their expectations too high based on the marketing and just need time to accept it, or if the ending is genuinely terrible. I guess I'll find out for myself.

Posted by fox01313

Such a good article to remind us that the ending of any piece of art in entertainment is rarely how we think it might be & the more emotionally wrapped up we are then it will affect us stronger. If fans pressured whoever created a piece of art because the fan is unhappy with the resolution (and not something where the creator(s) of the art was unhappy with the ending or the ending was rushed out before they could finish) then the entire game/tv/book/movie industry would be completely different as well as flooded with so many revision versions that it'd make the original gem of whatever was created quite watered down to many people. To me the Star Wars franchise is slightly going this way & with all that confusion on versions of the films, I'd hate to try to make sense of a library of games having that same issue. Great work Patrick!

Posted by Deathmachine117

I actually liked the ending didnt love it but some aspects of it I enjoyed its a pity it just didnt have the other aspects to blend it together.

Posted by Vitor

@Carac said:

If the indoctrination theory is true, they planned all of this. It would also explain why they want to wait until more people have finished it to say, "You all got tricked/indocrinated...and here's the battle that happened after the battle of shepard's will vs reaper Indocrtination that was happening in his head (the ending we've seen). The only ending where Shepard breathes in the rubble where he was hit by the Harbringer blast on earth was the one the reapers didn't want you to pick and the one that symbolizes not giving into indoctrincation. We've all been played/tricked by indoctrination...I hope.

If that's the case, then I actually really like the ideas behind the ending.

Although continuing it through DLC is questionable. Then again, maybe they just wanted an uproar so they could generate more buzz...

Posted by tangmcgame
Edited by TeflonBilly

Screw you Patrick for making me think about Sugar Ray!

Posted by EXTomar

The fact some cling to "The Indoctrination Theory" is a worrying issue as well. Unsatisfactory endings happen in books and movies and games. Having fans try to make sense of "they just made a bad ending" by jumping through logical hoops is a modern element born in the Internet Age and worrisome as well.

Edited by Brendan

What's weird about this for me is that most of the people involved in the crusade to change the ending have already finished the game for a while now. For me, once I've finished a game and have resurfaced into the real world my perception of the game is as a product, a fake reality, something that isn't real nor has any real consequences (especially if I finished it like a month ago). My question to all the people who are already done and have moved on is, what do you still get out of it at this point? A month from now when they release some update, are you just going to go back to your last save file, see changes to the pixels, say "Ah-ha!" and feel satisfied? At that point how do you even care? There's no immersion and it means nothing, because at that point it's just like watching a Youtube video of story content; there's no meaning to it.

The thought of me having finished this game weeks ago, waiting another batch of weeks, maybe even having played other games by that point, and still caring about that portion of the game seems insane to me. For me this content is at least somewhat still a curiosity because I haven't finished the game yet.

Posted by Hailinel

@Carac: It might be an entertaining diversion, but it's not true. It never held true and requires significant stretching to hold water.

Edited by Pinworm45

I really hate how there's an attempt to shrug off what Bioware did with the ending by saying "endings are hard, you can never please everything, there would always be people upset it ended, or that the ending "tried something different [it didn't] and people just didn't get it/like it" etc. Some of that may be true, but that is irrelevant in this case. The issue is on an objective level: The ending is just objectively terrible. It has massive plot holes.. in fact, they're not even plot holes. That's simply too small. It has wrongs. That's the only way to describe them. It has nothing to do with expectations that were too high, and everything to do with the ending just being terrible on an objective level.

Posted by Fistfulofmetal

An ending like the ME3 ending is a special case because the events that take place un-does nearly everything you do in the entire series. All the choices and decisions are wiped clean and every person who plays the game leaves the universe with nearly identical state. That's really bad when they said this wouldn't happen.

Posted by GaspoweR