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Betraying Shepard: The End of Mass Effect 3

So I'm just writing this here... just to write it somewhere without jumping into the bubbling cauldron of the forums.

Over the last week or so since I finished my first playthrough and Insanity playthrough, I think I've come to a solid understanding of what the real flaw of the Mass Effect 3 ending is. And it's not what people might think. Now onto the oddly formatted journal piece.

All over the internet, fires are burning about decisions that don't matter, cutscenes that don't make sense, a stinger that's tantamount to "it was all just a dream." There's some validity to all of it sure but most are just symptoms of the real cause. But first lets go through the various conflicted sections.

Reaper AI, Star Child, Catalyst, Citadel AI:

There really should not be a big issue over this one. AIs and VIs taking humanoid form is a staple of the ME universe and games and it shouldn't be a surprise that it happens agains, let alone having it take a form of "emotional importance." Honestly, would it of been better if it was the form of a love interest, Anderson, or even Shepards mother?... How about if Harbinger plopped down on in front of you and started talking again? Having the Contact movie moment doesn't inherently hurt anything, and can actually end up being meaningful in from a perceived naivety, or just the contrast between an all knowing force reaching a singularity... or perhaps Shepard reaching that singularity.

Various interpretations are still possible in this instance including;

1. Shepard, like Saren, has synthetic machinery in his body. Who's to say that this dialog wasn't happening in his mind and not a physical place. (not necessarily part of the indoctrination theory... but doesn't hurt)

2. Is the Reaper AI, truely being honest or manipulative. Is the child form to instill a sense of trust?

... Lets just include the rest of the indoctrination theory stuff here. It's actually pretty good speculative sci-fi.

To add to the conspiracy theorist out there.... Nobody ever saw the child on earth except for Shepard. Hell, nobody even touched him. He got himself into that shuttle and was gone before Anderson saw anything. Only a couple of husks trying to get into that room could be accused of chasing him and thus acknowledging his presence. (Lets get all Lost theoretical here)

Fateful Choices, 3 Endings:

Off the top, to everyone who thinks that their choices had no effect towards the ending...

1. The very fact that a potential ending involved literally no choice and yields the destruction of the earth is solely predicated on the players choice, and that different choices would yield salvation, invalidates the claim to the contrary.

2. For everyone who stopped dead in their tracks to ponder the outcomes of these choices. Destroy EDI and the geth? Destroy yourself? Follow the image of the Illusive Man or that of Anderson? Each players own investment with the related characters created weight for each option you're presented with at the end. In a way it's the reverse of every decision moment for the rest of the series. Every experience you've had in the games is giving weight to which option you pick and why. It's the ultimate decision of the series and there's a whole mess of sci-fi and real psychology/biological logic that can be applied here.

Color Pallet Swap?:

Alright, this is just watching the sausage get made. There isn't really anything wrong with this approach. It's efficient and still gets across the results of the players final choices. Unfortunately, it's cannon fodder for people who are irate and just looking for the smoking gun.

Joker, wait for me:

Nothing can be said. It's out of nowhere and needed explanation. It's the marines suddenly showing up out of nowhere at the end of Jurassic Park 3 (lots of flaws, but come on... "Oh, don't mind the Navy Flotilla just off shore that nobody talked about"). The only potentially logical source would be on the "Earth is Destroyed" ending and they're trying to flee. But still, throwing in a scene with no explanation at all is silly just to make the connection to the Star Gazer scene with the similar sky.

Still not the main problem, but just meat for the predators. It's like they wanted to stoke the flames of the internet with that one.

Star Gazer:

No, they didn't pull a Mario 2 and say "It was all just a dream." If anything it's more like The Wizard of OZ or, better still, Assassins Creed. These events did happen. It's just up to interpretation to how the story is actually told. A method of folding in different players interpretations, or even multiple playthroughs.

And who ever said it's actually a child? The older man never referred to him as such, likewise the child never refereed to the old man as grandpa or something similar.

I feel that none of these are inherently the real flaw of the ending to Mass Effect 3. But next.... a little context.

My Playthrough: I got fucked.

It was going on 4am and I was determined to finish the game. I had convinced the Illusive Man to shoot himself in the head (seriously... how many times does this happen in Mass Effect?... It's a game of people shooting themselves in the head in front of you) and was honestly moved by the final moments with Anderson and a pretty good view out into space. I had anticipated the Heroic Sacrifice was probably the course the game would take, and thoughts of Obsidian's KOTOR2 ending kept creeping up in my mind (Now THAT was a broken ending). Then Admiral Hacket space radios me and Shepard limps forward to pass out on the ground. Then, as if waiting for the perfect moment, the elevator brings me up... literally and figuratively since Shepard was basically bleeding out on the ground.

Child, ghost, VI , AI thing was talking to me. I actually liked it since it meant the game wasn't over yet. There was some talk about Order and Chaos, like the Destroyer Reaper conversation earlier (which I renegade interrupted with the verbal "fuck you" and ditched most of that conversation... my loss). I found it rather interesting. The little kid went on to talk about evolutionary steps from here on out and destruction. End then it stopped.... It all just stopped.

There I was, 4am and my Shepard was standing in the middle of nowhere with 3 places to go to.... and I had no idea what the fuck each location did.

I tried to go to my missions log, but it's a real piece of crap and doesn't list out mission steps anymore and wouldn't help me.(a REALLY FUCKING BIG FLAW. Who's idea was this to change a design that's remained consistent for the two previous games? Or did this just get overlooked during the merging of the Codex with the Mission List... It's not even really a log anymore). I click the thumbstick, hoping that it might highlight mission objectives or waypoints.... no such luck.

My shepards end, was literally picked because I thought that the Blue light might indicate a Paragon path. It was to my complete surprise, when Shepard started to disintegrate in front of me. What the hell did I just pick? What the hell just happened? What the Fuck? It's 4am and I'm on fire with confusion, frustration, and yes... rage. I must of spent the next hour pacing back and forth contemplating what just happened. I unsealed the internet and it's potential for spoilers looking for clues. I backtracked my actions, and even replayed from the last autosave. What just happened?

It gets my blood pumping now just thinking about that moment. I'll call that weird but... moving on. My confusion about the locations of the endings was my fault, I missed the visual clues during the conversation, but was hindered still by the faulty Mission Log. A lot of my emotions from that moment was from having lost complete control over the game ending final choice. With that understood, I started to examine what choice I would actually of made and it's not what I had picked. Indeed, heroic sacrifice wasn't actually the only option built into the system. I'm not saying that I'm in it purely for survival, but I perfer the ending to not limit the ending conditions and thus meaning of the end by forcing Heroic Sacrifice on their terms.

My rational for my end game choice is my own and perhaps apart from every other Shepard. But that's the point afteral. However, there's still one glaring fault in the end game. And I believe it's the principle reason for all this uproar (aside from joiners and the internet being the internet).

Space, The Final Conversation:

As I've said, I have no problem with the Reaper AI/StarChild or whatever you want to call it. Infact I think it was a good choice. The problem comes from your conversation with it. It's been stated in an interview (I believe with hudson) that they had originally intended for a more indepth conversation but figured that Full Disclosure wasn't preferable. I agree with this view, do we really want to know the name the Reapers call themselves or the name of the race that created them? Part of me says yes, but that just opens up a whole different can of bees and throws it at the player in the last 5 minutes of the game. We don't need that.

However, what we did get is a conversation that has exactly 2 conversation halts for dialog choices which both result in the same, or nearly the same dialog path. This is a vital conversation that yields the fate of our character, crew, and the universe but the structure is vastly different from all other high-value dialog encountered before...

There is no "Investigate" path where we're given the chance to question. The interview stated that they wished to avoid over explanation, lifted the curtain. I agree, but it's easy enough to have the Reaper AI steer away from precise answers or just tailoring the questions appropriately. When it mattered most, we always had the option to ask questions and not doing so now puts constraints on our character.

There are no Paragon/Renegade challenges. Indeed, even if we had evidence that synthetics(geth) and organics(quarians) are getting along, we can't bring it up as evidence against the Reaper solution. We can't challenge the Reaper AIs stated goals. All of our Asshole Shepards out there can't be an assholes to this little brat kid and all our paragon Shepards can try to reason with it. In essence, our Shepards can't act like our Shepards anymore.

"You'll never understand" and "We don't want to be preserved" are staggeringly similar tones. It's as if a designer just selected the other selections and pressed "delete."

It's really sad actually. Bioware makes games with excellent story, and excellent characters. The arcs and character development traveled in Mass Effect 3 are immensely powerful. Mordin singing a Salarian version of Gilbert and Sullivan always got me thinking of my father who died back in 2009. Mordins death in ME3 was deeply moving even if I didn't have that additional connection. The true flaw of Mass Effect 3s ending, the root of this internet firestorm of outrage,

Bioware ended their game, ended their trilogy with a conversation that betrays the character that we've all been developing. It's no longer our Shepard in the end. The writing takes the player down a linear path. Audio Dialog is played of someone who looks like our character, sounds like our character, but isn't at all Acting like our character. All other flaws or opinions of the end, are simply magnified because of this.

It may still be our choice at the end, but it's no longer our story.

That's enough of a rant for one night.

3 Comments

FUCK THE CLOUD, FUCK EA, and again, FUCK THE CLOUD

Even more irritating since this is the second time I've typed this. Giantbombs software got stuck loading while i was trying to expand the text entry window to show everything I had written... and now that's gone.  On to version 2.0
 
As someone who has used computers for at least twenty of the twenty seven years of my existence, I am well aware of the existence of bugs in software. With growing complexity of hardware, software and the connections and possible connections between different hardware, bugs will always get past even the most diligent QA team.  Bungies Myth 2 had perhaps one of the worst bugs appear just before distribution, and it wasn't even found by the QA team. Some bug are small and are inconsequential while others can be catastrophic. The Myth 2 bug had the possibility of erasing the users entire hard drive. However myself, and absolutely a growing number of customers out there, have been growing ever more frustrated by the quantity of major bugs finding their way into shipped software.  
 
Allow my a segway, well not really a segway since those have wheels but i don't really care.
 
The Electronic Arts game, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, is essentially a multiplayer game. True there does exist a single-player experience, but tallying in at around 5 hours it's barely  worth mentioning. The Multiplayer experience exists now in three primary modes, all of which require an internet connection to the EA servers. Local Multiplayer would allow games to be played on machines connected to the same local network and outside of a users internet connection. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 does not support this.  Now this is where I associate this style of experience to Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing essentially stores a users relevant data on an external server ran by the company (often). Software then establishes a connection to this server where it's then manipulated. Cloud Computing has some pretty impressive benefits because of this user to server relation. Data can be accessed from any connectible device, updates to the data can be pushed to all connected devices, software updates can be applied immediately, and if there's no local data then there's nothing to be lost if a device is lost or stolen, just cut the connection to that device. 
 
However, most of these benefits can also be faults for Cloud Computing. With no local storage, if the connection to the Cloud is ever stopped, your data is inaccessible to you. For software like Google Docs, without an internet connection your word documents stored on their cloud are locked away. In the case for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, it means that you can't play the game.  Or worse yet, if the company goes out of business and the servers shut down,with no local network support, that $60 piece of software will never work again.  Obviously companies like EA and google aren't going anywhere but that doesn't mean there won't still be problems. 
 
For the last twenty four hours, and from June 29th to July 2nd, my copy of Bad Company 2 will not connect to the EA servers. Google the issue and you will find sporadic reports going back to March and just about all reporting the same. Their internet connections are functioning perfectly, other multiplayer games and software connect just fine, they've rebooted and cycled their modems, routers, switches, turned off firewalls for PCs and installed the game to their game consoles hard drives. All failed to resolve the problem. The only sure fire method thus far, has been to wait. Waiting for hours or even days. 
 
Waiting for the problem to go away. Waiting to play the game, waiting to use the software they paid for. Waiting to use their product in the manner for which it was intended. 
 
I, for one, am tired of bugs that break the game

1 Comments