Log in or sign up to comment
440 Comments
Posted by GrandHarrier

Patrick. What about the reactions of journalists during all of this? Isn't it telling that members of the game media have to a large degree, lashed out against people asking for a fixed ending. Just go back and look at both Giant Bombs, IGNs, Penny Arcades and other assorted outlets absolutely ripping into fans because they might actually get what they want. In many ways more childishly than the "entitled" gamers they are labeling.

Why is the games media ignoring that this isn't a precedent. It's happened throughout human history. Authors. Painters. Directors. Games producers. All have taken feedback and changed their works. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes. Charles Dickens with Great Expectations. Movies like Clerks, Bladerunner, Return of the Jedi. Games like Fallout 3 and Prince of Persia 2008.

You realize Lost responded to fan feedback too, Patrick. Do you feel its "artistic merit" is diminished because of that?

I'd enjoy seeing if you could objectively write an article from the other side. I respect you and hope that you could.

Posted by Marz

the ending was just poor conceptually, I understand why fans aren't satisfied.  But at the same time people just need to accept it and move on, maybe speculation is probably the best way to leave the conclusion.  I think maybe i'm just tired of the many ending threads, articles, theories in the past week or two.  

Posted by Beb

This article would be better if Jensen had finished ME3.

He is right though, that creators have to balance what they want to do, with what the audience wants. They can remain 'pure' to their vision, or they can take criticism to heart. Both paths can lead to good or bad outcomes.

It seems clear to me that the ending of ME3 was rushed and compromised. I don't think that Bioware adding a bit more explanation there, or even changing it is necessarily bad. After all, buggy games are patched all the time. Why can't there be 'story bugs' too? They might make it better, or worse. Whatever they do there, they are crazy if they charge for it.

Edited by Carac

The ending was a false ending, a battle of wills inside Shepard's head against indoctrination and they cut "what happens after you pick the 'right' choice and he starts breathing in the rubble on Earth." They planned all of this outrage and the upcoming DLC let's you "finish the fight...outside your head."

To Co-opt a Forbes article, "What if Fight Club had been cut to end 20 minutes before it actually does...and the ending was held back so you could buy it on DVD." By releasing the End as DLC, Bioware isn't "caving to fans" they are staying the course they always had. They're just riding this wave of backlash and making it look like they're "listening to the fans."

Posted by sushisteve

I can't remember a game besides Saints Row 3 or Bastion that were able to wrap up and end in a satisfactory way. Even greats like Bioshock and Half Life 1 faltered at the end, I suppose ME3 is just following in those illustrious footsteps...

Posted by AMyggen

@Nasar7 said:

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.

No entertainment can survive without the consumers, so that's a pretty dumb argument. If people stopped watching films, the medium would die out. If people stop watching a TV program, it will be cancelled (at least on network TV). That's not unique at all, and I wouldn't say that video games are more or less dependent on consumers than most other commercial entertainment.

The discussion of whether video games can be considered art or not is a completely hopeless discussion because almost everyone will have a different definition of what art is. Some will have a very narrow definition, some will have a broader definition. My personal opinion is that to bicker over if the term "art" fits video games is completely useless, it shouldn't have any impact on the industry or consumers.

Posted by rahulricky

I didn't care for the ending much but don't think it should be changed because of that. I do think that in hindsight all of the errors in that ME book that came out a little while ago wasn't a weird abberance given the plotholes in the ending of the main game.

Edited by Ares42

“Endings often just can’t win,”

I think this is just a bad cop-out. There are a ton of movies and games created every year that end well. While most of them might not have any major impact or be somewhat generic they manage to finish their stories in a reasonable and satisfying way. The problem however seems to appear when the writers get the idea that they need to do something special.

It is probably true, as Patrick writes about, that this is more of an issue with long-lasting series. The writers have managed to keep the audience entertained for a long time by being unqiue and creative so they probably feel a need to bring it all to a big climax, but then they just end up choking as they reach beyond their limits.

Why put so much focus on the ending ? If anything it's probably the one part of a story you can be generic and still leave the audience happy. Just look at Gears of War 3, very generic predictable ending, yet people enjoyed it (and it even got praise from critics). The hard part of a story is the middle part, keeping the audience entertained well after they are past the "new and exciting" phase. And ME3 nails that part.

Casey Hudson has even publically said that they wanted to make a "rememberable" ending. Why ?

Why not just go for a satisfying one ? How many successful "rememberable" endings can you think of ?

Posted by AaronChance

There was a big shift in the narrative from Mass Effect to the sequel and another shift for the third game. The series doesn't feel like it was something with a clear vision, but instead like a comic book series where new writers would come in and distort what had happened before to fit their own purpose. It's 'Bioware's' ending, but that's just the same as 'Marvel' bringing back dead characters like they're noble sacrifices never happened.

Posted by FrakesFace

Thanks for spending time and looking at how everyone is approaching this issue as opposed to calling one side "entitled" and leaving it at that. This whole situation about endings and how invested listeners react to those endings deserves a lot more consideration than I think a lot of the press has been giving it.

Posted by jakonovski

I love how Patrick actually talked to the guy who made the FTC and BBB complaints. Most gaming journalists would've just gone with a variation of "lololol entitled fan" and called it a day.

Edited by Sooty

You sat with friends and cried watching Lost?

wtf

and come on, The Sopranos is on a whole other level compared to Mass Effect, the latter has pretty good writing, for a video game.

Posted by dagas

You think the reason Drew Karpyshyn left might have had something to do with this? He decided to leave around the time the ending was finalized. Even if that's not why he left I think that the fact that the lead writer wasn't involved in how the series ended is part of the reason it didn't end well. I bet he is under NDA, but it would be interesting to hear his take on this.

Posted by mpgeist

Finally a fair article. THANK YOU PATRICK.

Posted by goatmilk

As a friend of mine said "It's amazing how they can ruin 5 years of great games in 10 minutes".

Posted by Ben_H
@TeflonBilly said:

Screw you Patrick for making me think about Sugar Ray!

AARRRGGGHHH And in turn now I have that stuck in my head. It's a vicious cycle.
Posted by hermes

@Kyodra said:

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 am with you... I haven't finished the game, but without risking spoiling it for me, this controversy sounds like fans were expecting a better/happier ending that they got.

If this is the case, and the ending is bad (not in badly done, but in the sad way it leaves the universe), I can't support this movement... Authors should be able to have a saying in the story, no matter how awesome you thing your Shepard is...

Posted by Chris2KLee

I totally respect what Bioware tried to go for, it was some high concept sci-fi stuff. It just felt a bit flat and, as the article stated, lack closure. That said, a simple explanation of what happened to the rest of the characters at the end would be nice.

Posted by Bane

If you have even a moderate emotional investment in the Mass Effect franchise there's no way the endings we were given could be considered acceptable. I don't need a "happy" ending necessarily, but I do need some closure. What happened to [insert anyone and anything from the Mass Effect universe here]? Who knows at this point.

Not only that, but there is a mountain of evidence that suggests what we were given was not what BioWare really wanted.

Take for example the iOS app The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3 where BioWare states they were still working on the ending in November 2011 and they were forced to scrap the Indoctrination of Shepard because they couldn't get the gameplay mechanics to work to their satisfaction.

The video Shepard's Indoctrination does a fantastic job of breaking down the final moments and showing you all the clues from the scrapped ending that remain in the game. There's a great article on Forbes about the Indoctrination Theory as well.

There's also the fact that the endings don't make any damn sense. Check out the Google doc A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect 3 Ending Makes No Sense. I can't believe BioWare could create their masterwork and then fumble the ball so completely in the last 10 minutes.

Posted by megalowho

I don't believe that this particular situation can be compared quite so directly to similar ending kerfuffles with Lost and The Sopranos. The internet, if you'll pardon the hive mind generalization, has had a bubbling dissatisfaction with BioWare over a number of creative decisions across their games for a while. It peaked during Dragon Age 2, and even if most agree that ME3 is a quality experience the reaction to the ending seems like a mix of genuine disappointment and piling it on on purpose because it's BioWare. People have been burned in the past by a developer they once trusted, and now that there is a gaping opening they are biting back hard.

Even the notion that BioWare might alter their ending seems less like an admission to fans that they did wrong than something they deem necessary to protect the Mass Effect brand moving forward. There's too much money to be made in future ME games to not address this head on, previous creative decisions be damned. Such a decision could technically be considered a victory for dissatisfied consumers, which is pretty significant in of itself, but It strikes me both as artistically weak and financially motivated from the developer's end. If you don't have the guts to stand up for your storytelling decisions in the face of criticism you undermine your integrity even further, and that includes any potential finale altering DLC. Nobody wins, in my book.

Posted by Nashvilleskyline

The ending to mass effect 3 is great. Because people wanted closure they trash the ending.

I love the Indoctrination theory. I mean...it's pretty clear that's what it is anyway.

I prefer an open ending, where discussion and imagination is still possible than a Bruckenheimer big boom ending.

Loved it. I just hope they provide a little explanation for people who couldn't play the first one, where a lot of that theory originates from.

Posted by SeanFoster

@Sooty said:

You sat with friends and cried watching Lost?

wtf

I did too. So what?

Posted by kkotd

You should probably take that screenshot of ME3 right before the lost number, out of the article. And also, the rumors of a still 'perfect' ending not being found are going around though bioware has been very very quiet on the subject.

Edited by JoeyRavn

I can totally understand the reasons behind the complaints. "Death of the author", the text belongs to the readers and all that. I think it's a completely valid position and, being honest, I fully support it. But I think the situation has been mishandled by both the fans and Bioware. On the one hand, such an aggressive campaign is just not the way to go. But on the other, if Bioware truly planned this from the start and they are going to sell the "true" ending to the trilogy as DLC, that's bullshit. Complete, pure bullshit. And being so vague about it doesn't help.

PS: Also, Sugar Ray.

Posted by Sooty

@seanfoster said:

@Sooty said:

You sat with friends and cried watching Lost?

wtf

I did too. So what?

Nothing in that show strikes me as that sad, tearing up? Sure, but actually crying...I don't see it.

Posted by Popskinz

@Tylea002 Never!

Posted by vikingdeath1

Jensen...... He never asked for this...

Posted by dr_mantas

The Mass Effect trilogy is probably my favorite franchise of all time. I do not make that statement lightly.

And all three games are very, very good. Even the third one.

But the keyword here is catharsis. I think I had enough of a cathartic feeling during most of the game, wrapping up loose ends and coming to conclusions of various situations and events.

Except the end, which didn't deliver what I was hoping for. I didn't get the feeling of release I needed. And that's too bad.

But it doesn't invalidate the whole franchise. And I hope the franchise isn't over with this (even though EA probably doesn't make too much money with it...)

Posted by CommonReason

While I have not played Mass Effect 3 yet, I do like the comparisons that you draw to TV shows that hold the same weight and carry large fan bases. You just can't please everyone. Though I disagree with your perspective on Lost. It was a good show for quite a while, but ultimately fell apart because of how fragmented it became. The ending became more of a way to wash your hands of any real questions that remain, and it didn't do that very well.

In contrast, The Sopranos left a lot to wonder about. The final minutes set up so many possibilities and leave you remembering just how important the arcs of the show were. I was left having an idea of what will likely happen, but without an answer. I think that that is how to properly end something that has so much wide appeal. You've got to keep your integrity in check while keeping people guessing.

Posted by Zippedbinders

@sushisteve said:

I can't remember a game besides Saints Row 3 or Bastion that were able to wrap up and end in a satisfactory way. Even greats like Bioshock and Half Life 1 faltered at the end, I suppose ME3 is just following in those illustrious footsteps...

Alice: Madness Returns and Portal 2 both had beautiful endings, maybe last year was just a great year for video game endings.

Posted by Rapid

No outcome of this will satisfy fans it may even create more rage. Plus April is not that far away I don't think Bioware has enough time if they planning any sort of release..

Posted by Brewmaster_Andy

I think one of the problems with the whole Indoctrination theory is that the Mass Effect games thus far has not been about subtlety (and really, any series where you can end a conversation by kicking someone out a window is less-than-subtle). Yes, there are nuanced segments of each game and a deep fiction, but for the most part the games have played out with overt decision-making. Although sometimes your own decisions' effects could not be predicted, the consequences were related to the initial decisions and seemed well-connected.

Indoctrination theory is a cop-out - if Bioware did plan it, then the only thing it shows is that they misjudged their audience for the series.

And a quick note about Lost's ending - FUCK that noise. None of the stuff that I cared about got answered in the slightest, and the entire last episode felt like a giant middle finger to the smoke monster, the numbers, and all the characters that I had grown to love. Gah, Patrick is bringing all these memories back.

Posted by Gourdmaster

EXCELLENT!! Patrick's work at Giant Bomb is the closest thing this industry has to investigative journalism on a regular basis. I cannot say enough how refreshing it is to read game news stories where the writer actually asked people to comment and found relevant quotes. Thank you Patrick.

Posted by SlashDance

@Sooty said:

@seanfoster said:

@Sooty said:

You sat with friends and cried watching Lost?

wtf

I did too. So what?

Nothing in that show strikes me as that sad, tearing up? Sure, but actually crying...I don't see it.

I guess it's all those years caring about those characters, and suddenly it's over. Add sad music and some people will cry. Makes sense.

Posted by Alex_Carrillo

If nerds gave this much of a fucking shit about things that actually matter the world would be a much greater place. But they don't, and they remain the worst thing in the world.

Posted by imooumoo

This was really well written Patrick. You seem to actually understand the feelings of some fans, and have gone into detail of how they feel, why and what they want as an alternative. You remain true to how you feel about the ending, while not alienating those who seek resolution. Thank you for changing the tide of most gaming press. You didn't insult us, you tried to understand and feel for us, even if you disagree. Thank you.

Edited by phrosnite

Lost's ending. Now that was a piece of stinking shit. Mass Effect 3's isn't nearly as bad. Also "Indoctrination Theory" makes the ending fantastic.

Posted by jajayal

I was ok with the ending. It's the journey not the destination.

Posted by JeanLuc

I like this article. Its not about taking sides but more about given a wide range of opinions. Jensen's points were especially interesting to read. I'd love to see more stuff like this in the future.

Posted by Unequivocable

I think if you try to make a list of movies and tv shows with Great endings you will quickly realize the truth of how hard it is to do it right. I would give Great ending status to Six Feet Under and Buffy but not a lot else. And even those weren't Great endings for lots of fans.

Posted by Begilerath

I just wanted to play Mass Effect 1,2 and 3 back to back, so that's why I have not played 3 yet...I tried my best to avoid spoilers, but noooo The Internets would not let me just play this gamer in peace, now I kind of know what the ending is about and I'm and kind of hoping is not as crappy as The Internets say..so that is ruined.

Posted by depecheload

@kkotd said:

You should probably take that screenshot of ME3 right before the lost number, out of the article. And also, the rumors of a still 'perfect' ending not being found are going around though bioware has been very very quiet on the subject.

All the endings have been found, either though gameplay or through exploring disc content.

Edited by TheHT

SPOILERS

.

.

.

.

All of the endings were heroic. The final cutscene was just too short and at one point disorienting (Joker flying from the beam, though a viable reason for this is available).

The entire Earth sequence needs to be expanding though, and should serve as the time to show all of the force you've ammassed kick some ass (rachni, mercenaries, spectres, etc. aren't even acknowledged). Instead you get fleet check-ins and some general forces fight. How freaking awesome would it be to have a 10 second scene where an Alliance fighter is getting chased by Reaper fighters and a Blue Sun merc saves his ass. 10 seconds to acknowledge that a decision you made had an effect on the final battle. Or another 15 seconds showing rachni swarming about a Reaper and the queen showing up to tear shit up.

This goes for beyond space stuff too. Having things like 10 seconds of Jack and her company sending Reaper ground troops flying would go a long way. This stuff can't be at the very end per se, they have to be intercut to the whole Earth sequence. Then at the end just show these characters acknowledging what's happening at the end (not just some general Alliance footsoldiers). Literally all your decisions would be whether you see this extra 10 seconds or this other extra 10 seconds, but it would go a LONG way in making the entire ending better. I think that's what the fans who are upset and/or disappointed by the ending, and it's definitely what I would love for them to do.

Epilogue content would be a bit different, given what exactly happens in the ending regardless of your decisions. Seeing Tali arrive on Rannoch would bring up more questions, particularly how the hell she managed to get from Sol to the edge of the galaxy so fast without use of the Mass Effect Relays. Pretty much any sort of Animal House-style ending would fly in the face of that.

I don't think they should remove or alter anything that's in there (by alter I mean tweak certain dialogue, things like that). Just add these small cutscenes that let you, the player who with each choice made has become that much more invested in the universe, see these choices in a satisfying capacity (contribution to the battle).

Posted by depecheload

Excellent article Patrick, although I wish you would have mentioned that many of us are upset more about the random plot holes than the lack of choice.

Posted by cornwalliz

Its about the journey, man!

Posted by Paradigmer

I can't wait for them to put this shit out and people to go, "This is worse. DO IT OVER!"

Posted by AssInAss

@Gourdmaster said:

EXCELLENT!! Patrick's work at Giant Bomb is the closest thing this industry has to investigative journalism on a regular basis. I cannot say enough how refreshing it is to read game news stories where the writer actually asked people to comment and found relevant quotes. Thank you Patrick.

QFT

Posted by Milkman

It's real shame that when I finally do play Mass Effect 3, all I'm going to be thinking about the whole time is how bad the ending is supposedly going to be.

Posted by Milkman

@Pinworm45 said:

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.

If it's objectively terrible then why are there people in these very comments who say it's great?

You don't like it. Fine, good for you. But stop acting like your opinion is the only one that exists.

Posted by groverat

I think people are dramatically overselling the story quality of the first two Mass Effect games.