Logical inconsistency with Mass Effect's MacGuffin

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#1 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

I have not played Mass Effect 3 yet but do not care of spoilers, so spoil away for me if you have an answer to this.

If the Reapers have been slumbering for 50 thousand years, and they are 50 thousand light years away in the deep space of the galaxy like it lays out in Mass Effect 2, then why don't we see them when they were active? The light that astronomers would have been observing would be 50,000 years old by the time of the trilogy, and if there was a mass extinction event, those astronomers would have observed it.

Any sort of war on a galactic scale would have dispelled enough energy to make it observable in the sky.

Is there any story justification for this in 3?

#2 Posted by RawknRo11a (553 posts) -

no not really. this topic never comes up for whatever reason.

#3 Posted by Gamer_152 (14054 posts) -

The Mass Effect 3 ending was/is full of things that just don't make sense, that was one of the fans' major problems with it.

Moderator
#4 Edited by UltorOscariot (171 posts) -

All reflections of light off of objects aren't 50,000 light years away from all points simultaneously, and you'd need a hell of a telescope to see the ones that are in any meaningful detail. Think of it as concentric rings on a target, where the center is your given point in the galaxy, and 50K is probably the outermost ring. That, and there may have been some rounding in their math.

#5 Edited by dr_mantas (1804 posts) -

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

Also isn't the radius of the Milky Way galaxy 50k light years? Which means only the light from the center to the edge would travel that long, other light might have gone away well before.

#6 Posted by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -

Nano Machines 

#7 Posted by RawknRo11a (553 posts) -

My revised answer to this quandry: Video Games

#8 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Gamer_152 said:

The Mass Effect 3 ending was/is full of things that just don't make sense, that was one of the fans' major problems with it.

This wouldn't have been a problem if they had...you know not made the time period they'd been asleep match up day in date with the distance in parsecs they are out in space. It's a logical inconsistency that feels premeditated, because it takes more work to create than just through happenstance.

#9 Posted by BelligerentEngine (344 posts) -

@RawknRo11a said:

Video Games

#10 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@dr_mantas said:

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

In the 1970's you could open up an astronomy text book and it wouldn't tell you if there were planets in other galaxies because they hadn't seen enough yet with telescopes to conclusively say they exist. In the last 10 years we've gone from conclusively finding solar systems, mostly very large gas giants to being able to see much smaller earth sized planets and enough information to say conclusively that it is probable for life to be there.

At the start of Mass Effect 1 the date is 2183, I find it highly improbable that we would not be able to see the sorts of harvesting that went on as the game describes. The Reaper ships alone disperse huge amounts of energy.

#11 Posted by living4theday258 (678 posts) -

@BelligerentEngine said:

@RawknRo11a said:

Video Games

#12 Posted by MstrMnyBgs (123 posts) -

Alien lifeforms. Or Video Games, whichever you prefer. You're assuming everything is in context with our knowledge of the universe. That everything works based on our physics. Who is to say that the reapers don't excrete a goo that coats their exoskeleton which diffuses light at long distances?

#13 Edited by Liquidus (946 posts) -

Nowhere does it say the Reapers travel 50 thousand light years away, they just go into dark space outside the galaxy until another 50 000 years. Since they created the mass relays, it's safe to assume they can also travel at whatever speed a mass relay makes things travel. Actually, I believe that's how they enter and exit the galaxy, remember The Arrival? That's why you were blowing up a mass relay. Anyways, there was evidence of the Reaper war last cycle but no one knew what it actually was until Mass Effect 1 and still it was kept a big secret. So, they might have observed a galactic war but didn't interpret it as such. Regardless, there are MUCH MUCH bigger issues with the ending to the series than this little detail that's been around since the first game.

EDIT: Apparently, the mass relays are basically like teleportation devices. So, they got out of the galaxy pretty darn quick after the harvest.

#14 Posted by punkxblaze (2957 posts) -

Since when has Mass Effect given a single fuck about actual science?

#15 Posted by pyrodactyl (1891 posts) -

@thabigred: dude, they go to the galactic core at the end of mass effect 2. Turns out there isn't a giant black hole there but just a bunch of asteroids and super novas. At some point you just have to forget about logic and science to enjoy the experience.

#16 Posted by gkhan (417 posts) -

Mass Effect basically assumes most parts of relativity doesn't exist and we live in a more-or-less Newtonian universe. The in-game concept of "the mass effect" is that if you pass a current through a special magic element ("element zero", or "eezo" for short), the mass of everything around if goes down. This is given as the explanation for why faster than light travel is possible, getting around the whole "you would have infinite mass if you traveled at the speed of light". You pump energy into eezo cores until your spaceship has zero mass, and then you can accellerate it to faster than light speeds. But there's a whole bunch of other issues with this that the game doesn't address, like time dilation for instance. You basically have to suspend disbelief about all that stuff in order for the fiction to work.

That said, this is true of basically every sci fi story ever which which takes place in more than one star system. Take the Foundation books for instance: in a relativistic universe, anything that remotely resembles a "galactic empire" is totally ridiculous. Mass Effect at least attempts to provide a basis for FTL travel, which is more than most fictions do. In order to enjoy these things, you just have to accept it.

#17 Posted by Hailinel (23948 posts) -

@living4theday258 said:

@BelligerentEngine said:

@RawknRo11a said:

Video Games

As much as this conversation has been done to death, defaulting to this empty, vacuous, intellectual black hole of an answer has to stop.

#18 Posted by wewantsthering (1553 posts) -

McGuffin.

#19 Posted by Winternet (8007 posts) -

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

#20 Edited by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

#21 Posted by Winternet (8007 posts) -

wat?

#22 Posted by Brodehouse (9624 posts) -

Activate hyperdrive!

#23 Posted by Jimbo (9775 posts) -

Midi-chlorians.

#24 Posted by ssj4raditz (1125 posts) -

I feel you may be overthinking this just a bit.

#25 Posted by Rasmoss (445 posts) -

The Reapers are not a macguffin.

#26 Edited by kyrieee (379 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@dr_mantas said:

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

In the 1970's you could open up an astronomy text book and it wouldn't tell you if there were planets in other galaxies because they hadn't seen enough yet with telescopes to conclusively say they exist. In the last 10 years we've gone from conclusively finding solar systems, mostly very large gas giants to being able to see much smaller earth sized planets and enough information to say conclusively that it is probable for life to be there.

At the start of Mass Effect 1 the date is 2183, I find it highly improbable that we would not be able to see the sorts of harvesting that went on as the game describes. The Reaper ships alone disperse huge amounts of energy.

The way astrophysicists detect distant planets is not through direct observation. What little light is reflected off a planet is completely drowned out by the direct light from the star that the planet is orbiting. The presence of planets is instead inferred through their gravitational interaction with the star, which causes a slight oscillation. This oscillation can be observed through a telescope. Similarly, any Reaper activity in star systems would be completely hidden by the background radiation of the star.

#27 Posted by gaminghooligan (1424 posts) -

@The_Laughing_Man said:

Nano Machines
#28 Posted by Angouri (231 posts) -

@kyrieee: you're absolutely right. Even if a reaper is described as something that is the size of a building, we struggle at this point to pick out planets the size of jupiter when they orbit stars. And we don't "visualize" the planets, we just know that they are there. So the reapers wiping out a planet with ground-attacks and space battles would appear like mere blips of noise, if that.

That said, the ending of ME3 essentially blows up science, so who cares. It's campaigning with AC3 and Diablo 3 for most dissapointing game of 2012.

#29 Posted by Terramagi (1159 posts) -

This just made me realize how potentially cool/awful it would be to reveal sci-fi plot twists like that.

#30 Posted by mrpandaman (864 posts) -

@living4theday258 said:

@BelligerentEngine said:

@RawknRo11a said:

Video Games

#31 Posted by mrpandaman (864 posts) -

@Angouri said:

@kyrieee: you're absolutely right. Even if a reaper is described as something that is the size of a building, we struggle at this point to pick out planets the size of jupiter when they orbit stars. And we don't "visualize" the planets, we just know that they are there. So the reapers wiping out a planet with ground-attacks and space battles would appear like mere blips of noise, if that.

That said, the ending of ME3 essentially blows up science, so who cares. It's campaigning with AC3 and Diablo 3 for most dissapointing game of 2012.

If you're talking about GB's most disappointing list, don't forget to add RE6.

#32 Posted by Doctorchimp (4069 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

And you didn't play Mass Effect 3?

Stop...

#33 Posted by Zleunamme (652 posts) -

The Prothean VI in the first Mass Effect explains why nobody was aware of Reaper invasions.

#34 Posted by Jay_Ray (1070 posts) -

Also by the time we are space explorers as in Mass Effect I doubt we will look at planets through telescopes, we will instead just go to that system.

#35 Posted by Levio (1784 posts) -

The light was drawn into a black hole which the ships flew around.

#36 Posted by bartok (2430 posts) -

I feel that over 99% of all game stories fall apart under the slightest scrutiny.

#37 Posted by ThunderSlash (1567 posts) -

You should also be asking how every weapon in the galaxy was replaced with the heat sink Geth tech guns (including weapons in isolated planets) in the second game if you care that much about logical inconsistency.

#38 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Doctorchimp said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

And you didn't play Mass Effect 3?

Stop...

They set up the fermi paradox in 2. It was the obvious direction in 3.

#39 Posted by Winternet (8007 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Doctorchimp said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

And you didn't play Mass Effect 3?

Stop...

They set up the fermi paradox in 2. It was the obvious direction in 3.

What. Are. You. Guys. Even. Saying?

#40 Posted by Levius (1081 posts) -

I wouldn't start applying science to Mass Effect as you would probably be able to pull every aspect of it apart. But hey it's fun. There is no way Reapers could be imaged with current technology, also you would only get a small amount of stars in the 50,000 years ago band, who's to say there was even reapers at those stars. Energy dispersed by a galactic war would either be: most likely a) way too small and spread out to be detectable, b) dismissed as anomalous or c) be lost in the cosmic microwave background.

Yeah, it does give a solution to Fermi's paradox ( which is basically the universe is so old, there has been enough of time for loads intelligent life to form, so why haven't any of them made themselves known) but it isn't really touched on in the story.

Online
#41 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Winternet said:

@thabigred said:

@Doctorchimp said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

And you didn't play Mass Effect 3?

Stop...

They set up the fermi paradox in 2. It was the obvious direction in 3.

What. Are. You. Guys. Even. Saying?

Fermi paradox: if there is intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy, why can't we detect any signs of it?

It's sort of the crux of the entire story in Mass Effect.

#42 Edited by Abendlaender (2766 posts) -

Cause it was the will of the Force

#43 Posted by haggis (1677 posts) -

@bartok said:

I feel that over 99% of all game stories fall apart under the slightest scrutiny.

Most stories do, depending on the kind of scrutiny. Mass Effect has never claimed to be hard science fiction, so applying that sort of scrutiny seems misguided. I doubt the writers would play much defense here. That level of consistency just wasn't a priority.

In the end, I think most of the detailed scrutiny is a result of people not liking the ending, and then trying to find a rationalization for their dislike. Emotionally, the ending didn't resonate, and that's enough. Depending on the level of scrutiny you're applying, the game either made enough sense or made very little. As far as video games go, I think the ending made as much sense as most do. But the unwillingness to engage in a suspension of disbelief (necessary for any game of this type) increases when people aren't happy with the game. It doesn't matter why: if someone is unhappy with the direction of a game/book/movie, etc., they'll find nits to pick.

#44 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Now I'm going to be six days down the rabbit hole. Thanks!

#45 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Napalm said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Now I'm going to be six days down the rabbit hole. Thanks!

Rabbit holes are the best type of holes!

#46 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Napalm said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Now I'm going to be six days down the rabbit hole. Thanks!

Rabbit holes are the best type of holes!

No, gloryhole's are!

#47 Posted by kyrieee (379 posts) -

@Jay_Ray said:

Also by the time we are space explorers as in Mass Effect I doubt we will look at planets through telescopes, we will instead just go to that system.

I think you missed the entire point of discussion

#48 Posted by feliciano182 (100 posts) -

@Gamer_152 said:

The Mass Effect 3 ending was/is full of things that we didn't like, that was one of the fans' major problems with it.

Now this is more like it.

As for the topic itself, it's certainly a matter that has never been adressed, though that does not mean it's an inconsistency.

#49 Posted by TheHT (10924 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

not quite.

#50 Posted by onan (1283 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@dr_mantas said:

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

In the 1970's you could open up an astronomy text book and it wouldn't tell you if there were planets in other galaxies because they hadn't seen enough yet with telescopes to conclusively say they exist. In the last 10 years we've gone from conclusively finding solar systems, mostly very large gas giants to being able to see much smaller earth sized planets and enough information to say conclusively that it is probable for life to be there.

At the start of Mass Effect 1 the date is 2183, I find it highly improbable that we would not be able to see the sorts of harvesting that went on as the game describes. The Reaper ships alone disperse huge amounts of energy.

How much more effort do you think species would put into telescope technology once interstellar instantaneous travel was discovered?

The most advanced species in the galaxy at the start of the series are the Asari, and through Liara, the series informs you that any evidence at all of previous civilizations, including "light from space battles 50,000 years ago" were attributed to the Protheans. Even then, most people didn't care, and it was at most an academic and military curiosity. If anyone took notice of your lightshow at all, it probably looked like the Protheans were warring on a neighboring species.

You're making huge assumptions about the advancement in technology that aren't reflected in the fiction of the universe to prove your inconsistency, but let's review a few "facts":

  • Sovereign was one of the largest class of Reapers out there. The citadel races, or at least humanity, even refer to them as "Sovereign-class."
  • They saw Sovereign class energy emissions first-hand at the battle for the Citadel in ME1. Presumably every single species got their hands on that data. As far as we know, no scholars raised any alarms because those emissions and the emissions from a neighboring star system 50,000 years ago matched. They had time to study the debris after the battle, and most races concluded Sovereign was just a new type of Geth ship when they literally had a dead reaper at their doorstep.
  • Even if they had believed Shepard immediately, it was only a few years between ME1 and ME3. The amount and minutiae of data they would need to sift through to get anything meaningful (now that they knew what to look for) would have been immense and ultimately irrelevant with an incoming threat.
  • The idea of a 50,000 year cycle wasn't even brought up until some point in Shepard's adventure, so even if they had absolute resolution on those telescopes of yours and could see what some Prothean was having for lunch 50,000 years ago while his planet was being bombed, it would have just looked like an extinction-level event, and ultimately just something that would end up in Asari Trivial Pursuit.
  • Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. That's a pretty round number. Are you saying we should we be worried?

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