A Response to the Mass Effect 3 Speculation

The final instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy.

I didn’t want to post this directly to the forums because I think the boards have enough Mass Effect 3 discussion as it is, but I wanted to say something about this situation in particular that wasn’t just another post in a thread somewhere. For some time now the internet has been positively crawling with speculation over the idea that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game.

If you’ve not heard it by now the theory goes that because Mass Effect 2 was simplified in terms of gameplay, Dragon Age II (and possibly Mass Effect 2) was considered to be a drop in quality from its predecessor, and because of the involvement of EA who increasingly seem to care less and less about not screwing the customer over, that Mass Effect 3 has the possibility of being a very disappointing title. Some have even gone a few steps further to proclaim that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game and have already started raining down their hate on EA and Bioware for the hypothetically terrible game that will apparently be released.

Guys, this has gotten out of hand. My aim isn’t to offend anyone here, but Mass Effect 3 isn’t even out yet and the idea that’s it’s guaranteed to be a complete flop doesn’t seem that sensible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person who wants to see the Mass Effect franchise take a turn for the worse, and I do think there may be something to the theories that it’s going to be a game that’s lacking in comparison to its predecessors, but the degree of certainty to which some people believe Mass Effect is going to be a poor game seems a little premature, so let’s step back and break down the speculation over this whole business.

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II seems to be a popular piece of evidence brought forth for why there is or will be a decline in the quality of Bioware products. Firstly, I think some people seem to be a little hysterical when it comes to judging the quality of Dragon Age II itself. I’m sure there are a bunch of people out there who think Dragon Age II is a bad game and have perfectly valid reasons for thinking so, but I do wonder if for some Dragon Age II’s crime was not so much being a bad game, but rather being a game that wasn’t as good as its predecessor.

If you look at the reviews out there, at least among professional writers, Dragon Age II was never regarded as a badly-made game; it averaged a pretty consistent 8/10 across the board. But okay, for the sake of argument let’s say that Dragon Age II was a bad or at least very disappointing title. Dragon Age II is still just one game, and to take that one product and treat it as being reflective of all future Bioware titles doesn’t seem fair. But okay, let’s say for the sake of argument Dragon Age II could certainly help us divine the future of Bioware titles.

The Dev Process and Mass Effect 2

I don't think the recent titles Bioware has put out are the guarantee of a bad ME3 some people think they are.

The problem is, the theories behind why Dragon Age II was the way it was largely seem to revolve round the idea that it was interference from EA and a sell-out attitude on Bioware’s part that ruined the game. From what I can see we just don’t know enough about the development of the game to say that, but one rather obvious development problem that Bioware most likely faced is that the quality of Dragon Age II was hurt because it was rushed.

Between the U.S. releases of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II there were sixteen months, whereas between the announcement and release of the original Dragon Age there were roughly five years. Of course we have no solid numbers for development time here, but what we do have suggests a significantly longer development period for Dragon Age: Origins compared to Dragon Age II. Mass Effect doesn’t seem to have this problem, with the Mass Effect games probably not only needing less assets and design work, but with them also having a twenty-six month gap between the release of Mass Effect 2 and 3, the same amount of time that there was between 1 and 2. Of course I’m not saying that that this means there weren’t other factors that affected the quality of Dragon Age II, but I think this helps disprove the idea that the exact same problems that threatened Dragon Age II are certainly going to ruin Mass Effect 3.

Some of you may be thinking at this point that Dragon Age II wasn’t the only recent disappointment though, but that Mass Effect 2 was also indicative of a decline in quality from Bioware games. However, surely if you didn’t like Mass Effect 2 it should be a given that you’re unlikely to enjoy Mass Effect 3. The idea that if you didn’t like a video game, that you won’t like the sequel to that game, shouldn’t be a major revelation. I have seen some speculate that because 2 was simpler than 1, that this indicates 3 will be simpler than 2, but again, I just don’t think this is how it works. Just because one game in the series was simplified, doesn’t mean the next will be.

EA and Bioware

As for the theory that EA’s involvement in Mass Effect 3 will run it into the ground, perhaps, but this seems like rather baseless speculation. We really know very little about the internal relationship between EA and Bioware on this one and there are plenty of games EA could have ruined in the past and just haven’t. The closest thing we even have to proof that EA may have had their hands in Bioware’s work is the fact that we know Mass Effect 3 will have online multiplayer, almost certainly as a means to flog more online pass codes for EA. This, however, says nothing about the quality of the single-player or even multiplayer game.

We’ve already been told that the multiplayer content is largely separate and optional, just because they’ve developed this multiplayer content doesn’t mean they’ve cut down the development team working on the single-player game (this doesn’t seem like the title EA would choose to skimp out on resources for), and just look at Dead Space 2. That was a recent EA-published product with multiplayer that felt crow-barred in but that didn’t stop anyone from loving the hell out of the single-player. EA aren’t exactly my favourite publisher either, but they’re still showing that good games can be made under them.

The Chobot Reveal

I'm a little surprised this became such a serious issue, but whatever.

Lastly, there’s been the recent reveal of one character being modelled on and voiced by Jessica Chobot which seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers, even from people who barely know who Chobot is. Now, to me the level of hate that’s come down on Chobot seems way over the top, but if seeing a video game journalist you don’t like appear in a game significantly puts you off the game as a whole then fine, that’s how you feel and you’ve got every right to feel however you want. But if your point is that including a pretty gamer chick with a low-cut top is pandering to nerds I see where you’re coming from, but there’s plenty of things that the Mass Effect franchise has done before now that could have been called “pandering”.

The obvious example is the female lead of the show Chuck becoming a main character in Mass Effect 2 and walking around throughout the game dressed in a skintight catsuit, but this goes back way further than that. Even very early on in the original Mass Effect, you were exploring a gentlemen’s club where provocatively dressed blue alien ladies could be seen lap dancing. I personally don’t have any problem with this, I’m just saying Jessica Chobot in a low-cut tank top doesn’t seem that wildly distant from what the series has presented before.

Duder, It’s Over

All in all I’m not saying Mass Effect 3 will be a good game or a bad game, and I think it’s wise to retain some scepticism, but I think people have gotten somewhat hysterical on this one. I think Mass Effect 3 still has plenty of opportunity to be a great game and that we’re far from a time where we can pass a final verdict on its quality. Thanks for reading.

-Gamer_152

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Posted by Gamer_152
The final instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy.

I didn’t want to post this directly to the forums because I think the boards have enough Mass Effect 3 discussion as it is, but I wanted to say something about this situation in particular that wasn’t just another post in a thread somewhere. For some time now the internet has been positively crawling with speculation over the idea that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game.

If you’ve not heard it by now the theory goes that because Mass Effect 2 was simplified in terms of gameplay, Dragon Age II (and possibly Mass Effect 2) was considered to be a drop in quality from its predecessor, and because of the involvement of EA who increasingly seem to care less and less about not screwing the customer over, that Mass Effect 3 has the possibility of being a very disappointing title. Some have even gone a few steps further to proclaim that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game and have already started raining down their hate on EA and Bioware for the hypothetically terrible game that will apparently be released.

Guys, this has gotten out of hand. My aim isn’t to offend anyone here, but Mass Effect 3 isn’t even out yet and the idea that’s it’s guaranteed to be a complete flop doesn’t seem that sensible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person who wants to see the Mass Effect franchise take a turn for the worse, and I do think there may be something to the theories that it’s going to be a game that’s lacking in comparison to its predecessors, but the degree of certainty to which some people believe Mass Effect is going to be a poor game seems a little premature, so let’s step back and break down the speculation over this whole business.

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II seems to be a popular piece of evidence brought forth for why there is or will be a decline in the quality of Bioware products. Firstly, I think some people seem to be a little hysterical when it comes to judging the quality of Dragon Age II itself. I’m sure there are a bunch of people out there who think Dragon Age II is a bad game and have perfectly valid reasons for thinking so, but I do wonder if for some Dragon Age II’s crime was not so much being a bad game, but rather being a game that wasn’t as good as its predecessor.

If you look at the reviews out there, at least among professional writers, Dragon Age II was never regarded as a badly-made game; it averaged a pretty consistent 8/10 across the board. But okay, for the sake of argument let’s say that Dragon Age II was a bad or at least very disappointing title. Dragon Age II is still just one game, and to take that one product and treat it as being reflective of all future Bioware titles doesn’t seem fair. But okay, let’s say for the sake of argument Dragon Age II could certainly help us divine the future of Bioware titles.

The Dev Process and Mass Effect 2

I don't think the recent titles Bioware has put out are the guarantee of a bad ME3 some people think they are.

The problem is, the theories behind why Dragon Age II was the way it was largely seem to revolve round the idea that it was interference from EA and a sell-out attitude on Bioware’s part that ruined the game. From what I can see we just don’t know enough about the development of the game to say that, but one rather obvious development problem that Bioware most likely faced is that the quality of Dragon Age II was hurt because it was rushed.

Between the U.S. releases of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II there were sixteen months, whereas between the announcement and release of the original Dragon Age there were roughly five years. Of course we have no solid numbers for development time here, but what we do have suggests a significantly longer development period for Dragon Age: Origins compared to Dragon Age II. Mass Effect doesn’t seem to have this problem, with the Mass Effect games probably not only needing less assets and design work, but with them also having a twenty-six month gap between the release of Mass Effect 2 and 3, the same amount of time that there was between 1 and 2. Of course I’m not saying that that this means there weren’t other factors that affected the quality of Dragon Age II, but I think this helps disprove the idea that the exact same problems that threatened Dragon Age II are certainly going to ruin Mass Effect 3.

Some of you may be thinking at this point that Dragon Age II wasn’t the only recent disappointment though, but that Mass Effect 2 was also indicative of a decline in quality from Bioware games. However, surely if you didn’t like Mass Effect 2 it should be a given that you’re unlikely to enjoy Mass Effect 3. The idea that if you didn’t like a video game, that you won’t like the sequel to that game, shouldn’t be a major revelation. I have seen some speculate that because 2 was simpler than 1, that this indicates 3 will be simpler than 2, but again, I just don’t think this is how it works. Just because one game in the series was simplified, doesn’t mean the next will be.

EA and Bioware

As for the theory that EA’s involvement in Mass Effect 3 will run it into the ground, perhaps, but this seems like rather baseless speculation. We really know very little about the internal relationship between EA and Bioware on this one and there are plenty of games EA could have ruined in the past and just haven’t. The closest thing we even have to proof that EA may have had their hands in Bioware’s work is the fact that we know Mass Effect 3 will have online multiplayer, almost certainly as a means to flog more online pass codes for EA. This, however, says nothing about the quality of the single-player or even multiplayer game.

We’ve already been told that the multiplayer content is largely separate and optional, just because they’ve developed this multiplayer content doesn’t mean they’ve cut down the development team working on the single-player game (this doesn’t seem like the title EA would choose to skimp out on resources for), and just look at Dead Space 2. That was a recent EA-published product with multiplayer that felt crow-barred in but that didn’t stop anyone from loving the hell out of the single-player. EA aren’t exactly my favourite publisher either, but they’re still showing that good games can be made under them.

The Chobot Reveal

I'm a little surprised this became such a serious issue, but whatever.

Lastly, there’s been the recent reveal of one character being modelled on and voiced by Jessica Chobot which seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers, even from people who barely know who Chobot is. Now, to me the level of hate that’s come down on Chobot seems way over the top, but if seeing a video game journalist you don’t like appear in a game significantly puts you off the game as a whole then fine, that’s how you feel and you’ve got every right to feel however you want. But if your point is that including a pretty gamer chick with a low-cut top is pandering to nerds I see where you’re coming from, but there’s plenty of things that the Mass Effect franchise has done before now that could have been called “pandering”.

The obvious example is the female lead of the show Chuck becoming a main character in Mass Effect 2 and walking around throughout the game dressed in a skintight catsuit, but this goes back way further than that. Even very early on in the original Mass Effect, you were exploring a gentlemen’s club where provocatively dressed blue alien ladies could be seen lap dancing. I personally don’t have any problem with this, I’m just saying Jessica Chobot in a low-cut tank top doesn’t seem that wildly distant from what the series has presented before.

Duder, It’s Over

All in all I’m not saying Mass Effect 3 will be a good game or a bad game, and I think it’s wise to retain some scepticism, but I think people have gotten somewhat hysterical on this one. I think Mass Effect 3 still has plenty of opportunity to be a great game and that we’re far from a time where we can pass a final verdict on its quality. Thanks for reading.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
Edited by X19

I watched a let's play of Mass Effect 1 because I didn't have a system that could play it. I'm playing Mass Effect 2 (PS3) off and on and am really enjoying it. For me it's like playing an interactive TV show and since I'm not really an RPG fan anymore (grinding, item management, stupid quests yuck) the simplified gameplay works great.
 
What intrigues me is how they have three option in ME3 which range from story with minimal RPGness to full on RPGness. The way I play Mass Effect the story focused version seems the most appealing because I have no desire to do item management, customization, grinding etc.
 
On the multiplayer I'm curious how it will go down. Can I play as space hamster? Who knows.

Posted by Coleslaw893

This sums up my feelings pretty well. The hate and negativity I've seen surrounding ME3 has been baffling to me. People seem to fail to realize that different teams work on Mass Effect and Dragon Age, so their DA2 argument is pretty invalid. And the multi-player isn't some shoehorned in deathmatch mode, its something Bioware has wanted for a while, and their one of the few developers I would trust to not skimp on the single-player. And the Jessica Chobot outrage is just ridiculous. She's just playing a reporter, its not like she's a major character or anything, get a grip people.

But whatever, people will always be negative, they seem to be pretty good at turning violently on something once it becomes popular enough. ME3 is still my most anticipated game of the year, and I still trust Bioware to deliver another amazing experience.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this, good stuff.

Posted by Sparklykiss

I'm not going to worry about it so much. I know I'm going to enjoy ME3 because I enjoyed ME and ME2. This whole super negative drama surrounding the game is doing nothing but drive me insane. And, while I agree that Chobot making an appearance is off, it's interesting to me because I think this'll open more doors for others to contribute a small part to a game. (Someone in a video comment complained about iJustine showing up. And while I can't stand her, it just means I'm a step closer to my Jenna Marbles narration in something. I'm dreaming at this point, I know.)

I just hope people realize that different teams are working on ME3 than the team from DA2. The multiplayer doesn't seem to fit that realm, but you have a point: It's incredibly likely that they aren't wasting the single player resources. The only thing that bugs me about ME3 is the choice for FemShep since I'm the person who was fine with the last one and also fine without having a new addition since it's already too late in my mind.

But whatev.

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Posted by Praxis

I'm glad to see someone write this kind of a blog post. Between witnessing people getting raked through the coals for expressing their enjoyment of the game, to hearing others call it one of the most disappointing games of the year without even having played it, the hysterical reaction to Dragon Age II has been somewhat beyond my ken. It's reached such a fervor that we're now experiencing retroactive hate for ME2, a game which was almost universally loved when it came out, and preemptive hate for ME3.

I think part of this vitriol stems from the perception that it was an attempt to Mass Effect-ize Origins that led to the more disappointing aspects of Dragon Age II, but as you pointed out, it's simply not possible to produce a game on the scale of Origins with the development cycle they had. People tend to forget that Origins was in development for a very long time, and had already exceeded Dragon Age II's entire development cycle by the time it was announced at E3 2004. Making another Origins simply wasn't an option.

Ultimately, I have no idea what caused the hyperbolic reaction to Dragon Age II. There was clearly discontentment even before it came out, though, so it's not hard to envision the same scenario playing out with ME3. Being tied to a beloved product that was in development for the better part of a decade certainly didn't do DA2 any favors, so in that respect it's hard to envision how it could have succeeded. The whole situation kind of bums me out, but the only thing that really irks me is the assumption that seems implicit in many of the complaints circulating 'round the interweb, that being that BioWare is somehow honor-bound to continue making games as they have in the past.

Say what you will about the end results, but Dragon Age II took some pretty bold liberties with the BioWare formula, and attempted to update a style of gaming that has been more or less unchanged since the 90s. They may have overreached in some areas, but if BioWare decides as a result of this whole brouhaha to take fewer risks in the future, that would be a real shame.

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Posted by wsowen02

Another thing worth noting is that BioWare also put out Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, a 15 - 20 hour expansion pack, just 12 months before the release of DA2. I actually really do like DA2, its flawed and not as good as Origins, but I actually think that its truly amazing that it came out as well as it did on that development schedule.

As for Chobot, the difference between her and Strahovski is that Strahovski had already shown herself to be a talented actress before she was in ME2. Maybe Chobot will be fine, I hope she is, but nothing I have seen from her before has convinced me that she was hired by IGN (the worst of all gaming websites) for any other reason than her looks.

Edited by Brackynews

Maybe they'd be less outraged if it was a space-tank top?

Anyway, I'mma stop reading for spoilerth. Never even saw that screenshot before just now.

Edited by Mento

People are just antsy, I suspect. Earliest impressions of a game are always put forth by advertisers, who probably think we'd all want to buy a game for its sweet pre-order bonuses and internet celebrity cameos. It's when the "slightly less early but before I'll get a chance to play it" impressions come in from Gerstmann and co that I'll start to pay attention.

Though I suspect I'll ignore everything and pick it up on the first day. I'm a predictable sort.

/edit: Oh hell, that was a bit of a necro bump. My apologies, G-numbers. Maybe move the discussion over to how expectations shifted after this demo?

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