All of This Has Happened Before

by Dan H

Dan Suddenly Remembers What Mass Effect Reminds Him Of
~
So yes. Mass Effect 3, endings, outcry, backlash, dickhead games journalists talking about how the little people just don't understand, two halfway decent points and a lot of absurd crap talked about how nobody is allowed to criticise a work of fiction because that denies the power of the author.

There's a lot of blame being flung around. A lot of people are angry at Bioware, even more people are angry at EA. I am only partly joking when I say that I put a large part of the blame on Action Mode – a lot of the problems with the game, particularly the ending, seem to come from a game purportedly about choice being designed such that the choices can be turned off without any great impact.

More and more, though, I've had the nagging sensation that Mass Effect 3, the reaction to it, and Bioware in general were beginning to remind me of something I had seen before. Somewhere in another cycle perhaps, between the rise of synthetic life and the coming of the Reapers. Finally, I worked out what it was – Bioware was slowly turning into White Wolf Game Studio, and the CRPG industry in general was going through the same trends as the late-nineties pen-and-paper RPG industry, with all the same unhelpful nonsense.

Because everything goes in cycles, do you see.

The Impossible Thing

Back in the late 1990s the rhetoric of storytelling in RPGs was more or less dominated by the likes of White Wolf Game Studio. White Wolf Game Studio (now, bizarrely, owned by the guys behind Eve Online) traded on a rather one-sided interpretation of the history of the hobby, which insisted that in the Dark Days of D&D RPGs were all hack-and-slash bloodfests, but now they were all about Story and Themes and stuff. Their “Storyteller” games were very much designed to be run by an auteur GM (or “Storyteller”) who was very much encouraged to railroad the players through a prewritten plot in the name of serious mature storytelling (this is a slightly unfair characterisation of the company, but only slightly). WWGS are still going, and as I discovered when I dipped into their New World of Darkness line, they are still basically peddling the same ideas.

One of the major criticisms of WWGS, and the consensus they managed to build in the late nineties was something that indie-RPG pundits (like Ron “Other People's Games Cause Brain Damage” Edwards) described as “the impossible thing to believe before breakfast.” I've got a very ambivalent attitude towards Ol' Ronnie, and think he was basically wrong about most things, but the “Impossible Thing” is actually quite a useful concept.

The Impossible Thing is this: that it is simultaneously possible for the GM to control the story, and for the players to meaningfully be the protagonists of the same story. This is bound up in a certain amount of lit-theory handwaving (or the kind of lit-theory handwaving that you get from science graduates) about what it means to be a “formal protagonist” but the central premise is quite sound. Insofar as the story is driven by the decisions of the protagonist, the protagonist can only be truly player-controlled insofar as their decisions are allowed to shape the story.

Now since computers can't improvise, the Impossible Thing is rather more of a problem in a CRPG. It's easy (okay, perhaps not easy, but not a technological problem) for a human GM to respond dynamically to the player, whereas in a video game anything a player might want to do has to be foreseen and allowed for in advance. If a player creates their own story in a video game, it is a story that occurs entirely in their head, built from elements contained in the game, rather than one which is delivered through cutscenes and dialogue trees. And this in turn can cause dissonance, because the story the player thinks they're telling might not be a story that can ultimately exist in the game.

The first two Mass Effect games held the Impossible Thing at bay by preserving the illusion that the player's actions were truly shaping the story (not the world – that's a different thing). The story of a Shepherd who faithfully follows the Council and seeks to do what is best for the Galaxy is fundamentally different to the story of a Shepherd who hangs up on the Council and only gives a crap about humans. The illusion began to fall apart in Mass Effect 3, when it became clear that whatever happened, this was going to have to be a story about a Shepherd who unites the Galaxy and sacrifices him/herself for the greater good.

The Limits of the Medium

You could make the case, of course, that this is somewhat inevitable. A video game is prewritten, players ultimately can't change the story in the ways they can in a tabletop game.

Except they kind of can.

Bioware has, on occasion, done this very, very right. In Knights of the Old Republic your entire plot arc comes down to one single choice: do you become Darth Revan again, or do you not. This choice changes nothing in the entire game (and even, arguably, wipes most of the consequences of your LS/DS choices – it doesn't matter how many puppies you hugged once you decide that you're damned well going to rule the galaxy), you get a different ending cutscene, different dialogue with Malak, and you fight different people but the Star Forge sequence plays out pretty much exactly the same. And it doesn't matter one bit, because that one decision completely changes the nature of the story. The story of a Sith Lord who is redeemed is very different from the story of a Sith Lord who reclaims his power, and that one decision allows you to own the story as much as you ever reasonably could. It doesn't matter that there are only two options because for pity's sake it's Star Wars and “Light Side/Dark Side” is the only option you could possibly want.

(Ironically, I should say that I found that all the stuff Obsidian and Bioware did with Revan at a later date actually did undermine my sense of ownership – the Revan I played wasn't “neither Jedi nor Sith,” she was Sith through and through, and when the Jedi tried to break her she broke them right back, but that interpretation of the character is no longer really supported).

Torment illustrates this even more clearly. The plot of the game is totally linear but you are give a lot of freedom to decide what it means to be the Nameless One. The game asks “What Can Change the Nature of a Man?” and it leaves it to you to decide the answer.

Giving players ownership of the story – making them as close to being “formal protagonists”, as Ron Edwards would put it, as the medium will allow – doesn't require you to script boatloads of extra content or record masses of voice acting. It just requires you to let the player decide what the story means. And you can do that with a single choice, and you don't even need to script it (in Choice of the Dragon the choice a lot of people found most important was the option to choose your sex and the sex of your partner, neither of which were actually recorded by the game at all).

But what you do have to do – and what I suspect is harder for a lot of game designers – is let go of your ego.

The Face of the Enemy

The problem that White Wolf had in the late nineties, and the problem that I think Bioware have now, is that they view the interactive nature of RPGs as a problem to be solved, rather than a feature to be exploited. To put it another way, they seem to see players as the enemy.

Now as it happens, I don't support the “Change the Ending Now” lobby – I generally think that once something is in the public domain there's no sense in trying to change it. Changing the ending now doesn't do me and Kyra any good, because we got the original ending anyway, and we're not going to replay the game just to see what gets fixed in DLC. That said, I'm amazed at the number of internet pundits who are freaking out at the very idea that something as sacred as an Author might be asked to change something as immutable as a Story at the whim of something as unworthy as Players. I don't think I've seen anybody call it censorship yet, but give it time, everything is censorship on the internet.

The “The Ending Must Never Be Changed” faction seem to take it as axiomatic that Stories are pure, singular entities created by a single Author (even when that Author is a massive team of writers working for a games company, I suppose this is another good example of what we mean when we say a company constitutes a “corporate person”) and that the sole function of a Story is to convey the Vision of the Author to the Audience. This is, of course, bollocks. Not only is the discourse of CRPG design rehashing ideas that tabletop RPGs were sorting out a decade ago, it's getting stuck on concepts that conventional literary theory got past halfway through the last century.

Indeed ironically the argument so many people are using in favour of the Ending being the Immutable Word of the Author-God is exactly the argument that Roger Ebert used to explain why video games would never be art – a Story, they say, is a specific sequence of events and it ends how it ends, and to change it would lessen the Author's Vision and compromise his Artistic Integrity. This attitude is – of course – completely incompatible with an interactive medium.

This is why I found the ending so annoying. It's not that it was downbeat, I love downbeat. It's not that it was ambiguous, I love ambiguous too. It's that it completely changed the role of the player from “active participant” to “passive recipient.” Yes, you get to pick one of three endings, but they're all stupid, and the logic behind them is stupid, and they're arbitrary. And I absolutely see what the final cutscene was supposed to do – it was supposed to end the game on a note of rebirth and regeneration, of new hope and new beginnings. But by giving us one cutscene, Bioware denied us the opportunity to give our game its own meaning. It doesn't matter what your Shepherd was like, it always ends on a bright new day dawning over a lush, idyllic world. Even if I was a mass-murdering shit.

The problem isn't really that we don't get to control what happens, the problem is that we don't get to decide what it means.

The overwhelming feeling I get from the ending of ME3 (aside from the suspicion that it was set up to allow people who played the “Action” mode to get the same endings at the people who played the regular mode) was that it was a genuine, good faith attempt to craft a real and satisfying conclusion to the story of Commander Shepherd. The problem is that it was an attempt to craft a real and satisfying conclusion to the story of Commander Shepherd as it was imagined by Bioware, and it denies the existence of the stories created by everybody else. The end of a story is often the hardest part to write at the best of times, but in an interactive medium endings become doubly dangerous. Not only is there a risk of their being ordinarily bad, there is the powerful temptation to turn an ending into a conclusion, and a conclusion by its nature defines the story that went before it.

Up until the final moment, Mass Effect Three could have been about a vast number of things. It could have been about idealism versus pragmatism, nationalism versus internationalism, unity versus self-interest, conflict versus reconciliation, or even – if you wanted – about organic versus synthetic life. The final moment, though, strips away all of the other possible interpretations and makes it a game about one thing and one thing only, about an inevitable conflict between synthetic and organic life, and about the necessity for a dramatic solution to that conflict, either in the form of the Reapers, or the the form of Synthesis. The ending removes all textual support for any reading of the game other than this rather tedious one.

Casey Hudson has stated that the “controversy” caused by the ending was intentional because they wanted an ending that would be memorable, and that would create discussion. I believe him, and I also believe that this is completely the wrong way to create an ending for an interactive narrative. Players shouldn't be debating the meaning of the ending of a video game, because they should already feel that they know what the ending means, because they will have chosen its meaning.

The original Mass Effect creates this sense of ownership extremely well. Nobody debated the meaning of the end of the first game, because they knew exactly what it meant. It meant that humanity had to stop thinking only of itself and become part of the galaxy. Or it meant that humanity had to look after itself because no other bugger would do it. Or it meant that even in the face of chaos, ruthless people seek their own advantage. Or it meant that in the face of a terrible enemy, sacrifices had to be made for victory, even to the extent of sacrificing civilian leaders. Or it meant that in the face of a terrible enemy, sacrifices had to be made for victory, even to the extent of risking everything to protect your civilian leaders. Everybody knew what the choice was, and everybody knew why they made it, and everybody got exactly the answer they wanted because it was an answer they created themselves.

The Protest

So people are yelling for the ending to be changed. In large numbers. Casey Hudson say this is because the ending is “polarising” although as we've discussed in the comments of other articles, it really isn't. A lot of people are utterly outraged by this suggestion (this is a typical example) – no matter how bad the ending is, they say, it can not be changed because then it would no longer be Bioware's story. Then it would no longer match their creative vision

This, more than anything else, is the problem with the ending of Mass Effect 3.

“This” in this context being “the fact that the vast majority of people in the games industry have ludicrous out of date notions about the nature of texts.”

Long-time followers of Ferretbrain might remember our podcast about Anonymous in which Kyra explained at some length that the British obsession with the “real” Shakespeare is stupid and nonsensical because Shakespeare is only interesting at all because of the texts he created. Hamlet is Hamlet whether it was written by a glovemaker, a duke, a time-traveller or an alien. Similarly, Mass Effect is Mass Effect whether its ending was written by “Bioware” (which again, is apparently a single person capable of having “vision”) or by five hundred randoms from the internet. It is never remotely useful, helpful or meaningful to ask how a text reflects the intentions of its creator, because the creator is nobody. Or if you prefer, everybody. Man.

People On The Internet seem genuinely offended by the idea that Bioware might change the ending (the probably won't, and I really don't care if they do). The consensus, even amongst people who agree the ending sucked goat dick, seems to be that it is better to have a stupid ending that stays “true to Bioware's vision” than a good ending that may not. This is an attitude which I cannot even begin to fathom. I don't mind people liking the ending and defending it on its merits, but I can't wrap my head around people who hated the ending believing it should be protected because it's “Bioware's story.” About two minutes ago I was reading a comment on kotaku from somebody who claimed that they “didn't like the ending” but thought it shouldn't be changed because it had “depth and cognitive impact.” I don't even know how to parse that idea – how can you at once believe something has “depth and cognitive impact” and also dislike it? Isn't that like hating a book for being too well written?

There's an episode of the West Wing in which Bartlett complains that the American People will always support the rich over the poor, because they are all dreaming of the day when they themselves will be rich. I rather think the same is true of the attitude the games industry has to writers and game designers. People freak out at the idea of Authors being asked to surrender creative control to mere Readers because they are all busy dreaming of the days when they will be Authors, and they will create Art which will channel their Ideas direct and unpolluted to the waiting minds of their Audience. The idea that – when that day comes – the Audience may not respect the absolute necessity of all of their artistic decisions clearly fills these people with dread.

Indeed the driving force behind all of this seems to be fear of engagement with the audience. Bioware gave their game a near-as-dammit non-interactive ending because they were afraid to just let go. They did so damned well for two and a half games at letting you make Shepherd your own, but at the end they forced you down a single road. In the final moments of the game, there is no option to sacrifice the Aliens for the good of Humanity, or to side with the Illusive Man, there is no possibility of failure no matter how few War Assets you have built up (which at least means that you actually aren't forced to play multiplayer).

Mass Effect 3 is set up specifically to give everybody who plays the game the same experience, because that is clearly how Bioware – hell, the whole freaking games industry, if the backlash against the change-the-ending campaign is anything to go by – thinks that art is supposed to work. Even in an interactive medium.

After the credits, we see a short cutscene, set some unspecified length of time later, in which Buzz Aldrin is telling a child about the events you have just played through, and the trilogy ends with the child asking to be told “one more story about the Shepherd.”

If you played default Shephard this makes perfect sense, because Shepherd is a noble man who sacrificed himself to save the galaxy, but for anybody who made any effort to make their character their own it's completely absurd. “Daddy daddy, tell me the story of how Shepherd lied to his friends and doomed the Quarians to extinction!” “Daddy, tell me the story of how Shepherd had a lesbian affair with her Coms Officer!” If your Shepherd was a hero, it's fine, if your Shepherd was a borderline sociopath suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, not so much.

The tragedy of Mass Effect 3 is that, having seen everything Bioware have said since, they seem to have deliberately decided to limit the influence the player could have over their game experience. I don't believe it was interference from EA, I just think they decided that they wanted to make damned sure that everybody experienced the story of Commander Shepherd they way that the designers intend. Because games are all about the designer's creative vision.

Perhaps we should all have just sucked it up, and played the damned thing on Action Mode.
~

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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 10:47 on 2012-03-16
It doesn't matter that there are only two options because for pity's sake it's Star Wars and “Light Side/Dark Side” is the only option you could possibly want.

Well, there's "being awesome without actually dabbling in that Force shit, like Han Solo", a choice KOTOR straight-up stole from me, but nobody's been allowed to do that in the Star Wars universe for a long, long time. And being able to force choke and mind control people made up for it. :)

That said, I'm amazed at the number of internet pundits who are freaking out at the very idea that something as sacred as an Author might be asked to change something as immutable as a Story at the whim of something as unworthy as Players. I don't think I've seen anybody call it censorship yet, but give it time, everything is censorship on the internet.

It's particularly ludicrous because Hollywood changes the endings to films all the freaking time. That's what test screenings are for - you get a bunch of people who were not involved in the filmmaking process at any level (so playtesting isn't really the same thing) to try out the movie and see how they responded to it. Obviously it's really sad when a Ridley Scott has to fuck around with Blade Runner and slap on a happy ending, but when investors have sunk millions of dollars into funding a film it'd be insane of them not to go the extra mile to make sure as many people enjoy it as possible, and when it comes to big-budget actiony blockbusters test screenings do seem to be a very useful tool for that purpose.

Modest proposal: since Bioware spend millions of dollars making games and since they're kidding themselves that they're like auteur directors anyway, they really ought to do test playthroughs to avoid this sort of controversy.

I do wonder whether this will be the form the ass-covering will take: Bioware declare that they wanted to put a striking ending in place for people who just wanted to blast through Action Mode and hadn't played the previous games, and having presented their idea to us, they wanted to crowd-source people's reactions to get ideas for a more nuanced and complex ending. Which will be available for the low low price of $15.
Arthur B at 23:55 on 2012-03-16
Also, is it any wonder that developers begin thinking of themselves as auteurs when sites like Destructoid write dreck like this?
Dan H at 00:33 on 2012-03-17
I get particularly frustrated by the "REAL LIFE doesn't always give you choices" line. Not only is are games *not* real life, but Real Life very, very seldom presents you with situations where your actions are railroaded by game designers.
Arthur B at 00:47 on 2012-03-17
That said, if real life really is a sad vale of tears and misery for the author of that article, I personally feel a lot better.

Meanwhile, an actual developer (specifically, the lead developer on the first Dragon Age game) thinks that the whole auteur thing is a load of bollocks. (See his comment beginning "I read one recent blog post...")
Dan H at 01:02 on 2012-03-17
I've been really impressed by some of the commentary on this issue - Erik Kain's articles on Forbes have been bang on the money as well.
Dan H at 01:20 on 2012-03-17
And much as I dislike totalbiscuit his video linked at the bottom of the Forbes article is actually rather good - it's ranty but rather fun. It's not particularly about Mass Effect but it makes a good case against the "gamers are entitled" nonsense.
Arthur B at 02:20 on 2012-03-17
New update from Casey Hudson.

Summary:
- We think the ending is great.
- We had good reviews for the game so fuck you.
- We are going to vaguely hint at some DLC in future featuring Shepard but not commit to any changes to the ending at this point, so it could all be pre-ending stuff.
Fantastic article.
Dan H at 21:42 on 2012-03-17
Thanks.
Arthur B at 13:59 on 2012-03-19
So apparently in all the kerfuffle the Red Letter Media guys tweeted about doing "something" relating to the whole Mass Effect 3 debacle in the near future.

This excites me because there's no better way to inform someone that their sweeping epic space opera trilogy has crashed and burned than to have Mr Plinkett take it apart.
Ibmiller at 05:44 on 2012-03-20
Oooh, RLM ME. That does sound fun.

However, I think The Old Republic (which I played during the free trial over the last few days) is awesome - because it does let you be that Han Solo (or, so help me, Boba Fett, since I am loving being a Bounty Hunter despite my hatred for the helmeted moron), or a spy, or a trooper, without all that Force stuff - but it also lets you do that Force stuff if that's what you're into.

And you can do it together, leaving much room for invented character stories.

But yeah, I have next to no desire to buy or even play ME 2 and 3 now that I know the payoff is so incredibly stupid.
Axiomatic at 06:45 on 2012-03-20
Yessssss, glorious Mr. Plinkett for great justice!
Wardog at 10:47 on 2012-03-20
Urgh. Here's John Walker on why he's okay with the ending of Mass Effect.

It's not the worst apologia I've ever read, and I do see his point that the journey itself was significant but ... it still mostly annoys me.

Another trap gamers have fallen into is the sheer disgust with which the notion of “being told a story” is met. The distinction with gaming, you see, is you get to make choices, and those choices have consequences, and thus the game is unique to us. That notion makes sense in a game like Minecraft, but applying it to narrative, pre-scripted projects like the Mass Effect series is just naive.


I mean, if I wanted to experience a banal story I'd read some genre fiction...

Arthur B at 11:40 on 2012-03-20
But even if someone did want a pre-written genre story out of ME3, isn't the ending still completely jarring, if only for its bleakness? It's a space opera adventure story, and Luke Skywalker, John Sheridan and pretty much every Trek captain have all plucked resounding victories out of far less promising situations.

There's a really good analysis on how the ending is really, really bad even if you just want a prewritten narrative from this person who claims to be a professional screenwriter.
Arthur B at 16:20 on 2012-03-20
Woah. Apparently Amazon have been giving people refunds on ME3 - even if it's an opened copy.
Arthur B at 00:30 on 2012-03-21
Sorry for triple post but Gadget Review's editor has made a compelling case that the ending can't simply be patched with DLC.
Arthur B at 15:43 on 2012-03-21
Q-q-q-quadpost because Bioware's co-founder has clarified the party line.

The important paragraph:

Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.

This could mean anything from "the endings are staying precisely as they are, but we'll just add some dialogue and codex entries to provide an argument as to why they aren't crazy nonsense" to "The current endings will stay in place, but there'll also be alternative endings available to you big babies if you really don't like our artistic vision."
Dan H at 16:29 on 2012-03-21

Sorry for triple post but
Gadget Review's editor has made
a compelling case that the ending can't simply be patched with DLC
.


I'm honestly not wholly convinced by that article actually - while there are sensible criticisms to be made of the game, I don't think "Wrex isn't in it" and "you don't get to save the galaxy" are helpful ones (and I'm completely confused by the suggestion that Renegade/Paragon somehow "replaced" Good/Evil in the choice trees - did that guy even play the same ME1 that the rest of us did?)

He is, however, right that the basic problem is that Bioware replaced the game players were creating for themselves with a game of their own devising, although I think that was always going to be a risk for the final chapter.
Arthur B at 16:37 on 2012-03-21
I actually think the most convincing bit of the article is the link to this image depicting the last mission from ME2. Not only does it demonstrate that you can make a massively branching ending out of what is essentially the same basic mission, it's also a sign (to me at least) that Bioware have been done in by the expectations they established; by making the end of ME2 that variable, they created an expectation that the end of ME3 would be at least comparably malleable, if not orders of magnitude more so.
Wardog at 16:46 on 2012-03-21
Someone did a hypothetical equivalent for MEIII
Ibmiller at 11:48 on 2012-03-22
I actually think Muzyka's post seems a bit more than just a dismissal. After all, I don't think it's fair for a studio head to throw his creative team under a bus, even if he agrees that their work is bad. But he does also say that they'll directly address those who find the ending problematic.

However, unless those additional things he promises are "Shepard marries, has millions of fat grandchildren and puppies and kittehs and never dies" I'm not playing the game.

Kidding. I'm probably not playing the game anyway, since I want to spend my limited videogame time elsewhere.

I am impressed that he would respond so thoughtfully - I was expecting something more along the lines of the idiocy Hudson's been spouting.
Arthur B at 12:08 on 2012-03-22
I think it's more than a dismissal but less than what was needed to calm things down, if you see what I mean. He is perfectly willing to promise that something is going to happen, but between touting the review scores and talking about the need to make sure the artistic integrity of the story isn't compromised it's a statement which is capable as being read as anything from an almost complete dismissal to an almost complete capitulation.

I suspect we will eventually get some sort of apology or admission that the thing was completely botched somewhere down the line - Bethesda eventually 'fessed up about ruining the Fallout 3 ending after all, so people can and have made that sort of admissions without it resulting in a horrible loss of face. But it'll come a long way down the line, and probably won't happen unless the fanbase is broadly satisfied with the solution Bioware come up with (at least to the same extent that FO3 players were happy with Broken Steel fixing the horrendous logical inconsistency in the old ending).

I do feel bad for Bioware because actually admitting they released a deficient product this early in the product's life would be commercial suicide, but allowing the controversy to keep raging on as it is hardly helps the game in the market. ME3 had a really good first week for sales but Bioware will desperately want to avoid the same situation they had with DA2, where word of mouth absolutely killed its sales after the first week or so with the result that it ended up doing much worse than DA:O, which had a less strong first week but kept consistently selling and selling thanks to good word of mouth.
http://scipiosmith.livejournal.com/ at 19:59 on 2012-03-22
There must be some sort of doublespeak that would allow them to announce a U-turn and a new ending without admitting that the origianl ending was in any way deficient: after all politiicians make announcements like that all the time.
Dan H at 23:08 on 2012-03-22
I believe in such situations the magic words are "it was always our intent".
Bjoern at 15:43 on 2012-03-23
Hi there, first time commenter but I'd like to join the discussion.

Last week I regarded the Indoctrination Ending as utter hogwash, comparing it to people trying to make sense of the ending of Lost or explaining how Jimmy Hoffa killed JFK. After seeing the latest video on that matter, I have to admit that the Indoctrination Theory by now seems more plausible than BioWare messing up the ending to such a ridiculous degree. (Occam's Razor be damned!)

That being said, if they really explain that "indoctrination was our plan all along", this is still a horrible, horrible way to end your game. It introduces a level of subtlety that has not been there in any previous scene of the games. None of the three games was Silent Hill 2, indicating clearly that the text needs a Freudian interpretation. And if this is the case, I was not the only one above whose head the entire shebang went. It seems like 90% of the audience did not pick up on the 'clues'. If that happens to you, your ending might just be too clever for its own good.

Secondly: The idea that "this will blow players' minds" is also trite. All of a sudden BioWare decides to go all meta on us and screw with the player rather than with his avatar? As above, there has been no indication of that being a possibility at any other point in the games.

If BioWare goes with the Indoctrination Theory (and right now I don't see how they could avoid it), it sets a horrible precedent. Basically, they've sold us a 'concluding chapter' without the proper conclusion. Whether that proper conclusion will be given away for free via DLC or whether they'll charge us for it, the fact will remain that they delivered an unfinished product, completing it weeks or months later.

It's like watching Brazil or Fight Club in a cinema and having to wait for the DVD release to learn that Sam wasn't freed by Tuttle and that Jack was Tyler Durden all along. Yes, people will be surprised... but I would be as surprised if this happened in the game, the screen faded to black and - bang - it cuts back to the game telling me that Shepard just had a dream and has doomed the galaxy by not choosing to destroy the Reapers.

The idea that it's much better to hold that actual ending back so that every player can experience the surprise (as some pundits explain) seems completely foolish to me.

tl;dr: Maybe the endig is much more clever than I gave BioWare credit for and yet it manages to still be the dumbest ending ever devised in gaming history.
Dan H at 15:54 on 2012-03-23
That being said, if they really explain that "indoctrination was our plan all
along", this is still a horrible, horrible way to end your game.


This is more or less exactly what my issue with the Indoctrination Theory boils down to. All it does is change the ending from "the kind of bullshit geeks think is clever" to "a very slightly different sort of bullshit geeks think is clever."

It's like watching Brazil or Fight Club in a cinema and having to wait for the
DVD release to learn that Sam wasn't freed by Tuttle and that Jack was Tyler
Durden all along.


Exactly.

I really wish people would get over the idea that "ambiguous" is the same as "good." Ambiguity is interesting only if it opens up room for a more complex or nuanced interpretation than either unambiguous ending, and the Indoctrination theory doesn't provide that.

The only thing worse than an "it was all a dream" ending is an "it was all a dream ... OR WAS IT?" ending.
Arthur B at 16:07 on 2012-03-23
I think the Indoctrination Theory stems from three things:

- The very natural instinct to think to yourself "There has to be more to it than that", which prompts people to overanalyse the ending and pick apart every little inconsistency or glitch as being potential evidence for there being more to it than meets the eye.

- Outright logic failures in the endings. The Catalyst's arguments make no sense, squad mates can teleport (and, according to some reports, come back to life) in order to be seen stepping off the Normandy on the jungle planet, in general you can drive a bus through some of the plot holes that can come up. If you want to give Bioware the benefit of the doubt and assume that they didn't just rush the ending without thinking it through, you pretty much have to come up with something like the Indoctrination theory in order to make all of that make sense.

- Desperately hoping for post-ending DLC... in which case most of the ending can't happen (or at least can't happen the way it's depicted as happening), because with no Shepard, a wrecked Normandy, and no mass relay transport system there's pretty much no way to make it work. (Well, you could have DLC where you play Joker and the gang exploring the jungle planet, though if there was anything interesting about the jungle planet beyond the fact that it has trees and stranded crewmates on it you'd think they'd have hinted at it.)

Meanwhile, one of the writers has allegedly let something slip in a forum posting. Bioware's people have said after checking internally that the forum posting was a fake, but you can find postings on the Penny Arcade forums where weekes' account is asking people not to overtly spread around the information he's disclosed to them so I dunno what to make of it.
Arthur B at 16:44 on 2012-03-23
Also this is the most juvenile response to the whole thing I've seen from an actual professional so far.

(Memo to game journalists: stop using the term "precedent" with relation to this situation. This is exactly like the Fallout 3 thing only people are angrier this time because, having built up to the ending over a trilogy, Bioware raised expectations much higher.)
Arthur B at 23:36 on 2012-03-23
And this is the most obnoxious posting from the gaming media/blogosphere. I have yet to be told exactly how the ME3 ending is supposed to make you think - sorry, I mean make you think - unless the thought in question is "wooooow, Bioware are really phoning it in these days".
Dan H at 00:51 on 2012-03-24
I really hate to use the phrase "emperor's new clothes" because it's a godawful cliche, but I really can't think of any other way to describe the attitude. People really do seem to be afraid to dislike stuff in case it means they're stupid.

Trying to be a little less dismissive (but only a little) I think this comes back to the distinction I made in this old article between "speculation" and "interpretation". The ending of ME3 leaves a lot of room for *speculation* "How will the galaxy get by without the Mass Relays", "what happens next on crash planet", "will Garrus and Tali get it on". What is leaves no room for is *interpretation*, because the game helpfully tells you what its main theme is in the closing sequence.
Arthur B at 01:56 on 2012-03-24
And the speculation is pretty fruitless, because as soon as Bioware decide they want to do a ME after the galactic dark age most of the really big questions will be given canon answers.
Ethan E at 05:06 on 2012-03-25
It is rarely the case in which the customer is inherently always right, but when you are designing a game to sell many copies, you may wish to ask what people want and will therefore continue to buy on good reviews, rather then what you want to give them. And in this particular case, what they want is choice.

I think this is a well written article, and I agreed with most of the points. Such an attitude hardly makes sense, even from a business perspective, as forcing something on someone will hardly generate sales.
Wardog at 09:25 on 2012-03-26
I HAZ CLOSURE.

Those were weirdly convincing actually :P

I particularly liked Jacob's...and Garrus's.

Also I think Kaiden's should have referenced the fact he spontaneously developed bisexuality during down time.
Arthur B at 22:59 on 2012-03-26
Meanwhile, fans get together to protest the ending by sending Bioware a mountain of cupcakes.

I don't know which is more disturbing: the fanbase moving deeper into "crazy ex" territory or Bioware sating themselves on cupcakes baked with the sweet tears of unfathomable sadness...
Wardog at 13:13 on 2012-03-27
That's just WEIRD.

Why are people doing that?!
Arthur B at 13:19 on 2012-03-27
Because protesting ME3's ending has hit Where's Wally proportions - it's a game, it's a cult, it's a worldwide obsession.
Dan H at 09:06 on 2012-03-28
It might be because Child's Play stopped accepting donations because they "didn't like the precedent" of people giving money to sick children as a means of protesting the end of a video game.

Because Bioware's artistic integrity is *actually more important* than sick kids.
Arthur B at 09:10 on 2012-03-28
It has been pointed out that the reason for the charity drive in the first place was to counter negative depictions of the ending protesters as entitled babies.

It has also pointed out that Child's Play literally only exists because the Penny Arcade dudes wanted to do something to counter negative depictions of gamers as violent sociopaths. So you could argue that ostentatious gifts to charity in order to make you look good is 100% within the spirit of Child's Play.
Fin at 09:28 on 2012-03-28
It might be because Child's Play stopped accepting donations because they
"didn't like the precedent" of people giving money to sick children as a means
of protesting the end of a video game.



ಠ_ಠ

I HAZ CLOSURE.

Those were weirdly convincing actually :P

I particularly liked Jacob's...and Garrus's.



i actually spent half of that video thinking, 'nope, that person is dead. dead by my hand.' my shepard is a monster.:'( but hey, at least the youtube ending got me to reflect more on the decisions i'd made throughout the trilogy than the actual ending did.
Shimmin at 10:06 on 2012-03-28
To be fair, Dan, I think you're misrepresenting the Child's Play business by implying they're throwing an ego-paddy. It's got bugger all to do with artistic integrity vs. sick kids. There are several statements saying that they don't approve of people using the charity to push their own agenda, and that's a real problem that charities have to deal with. Also, some people apparently believed it was some kind of Kickstarteresque project. Apart from any other problems, those cause negative publicity.

Holkins at Penny Arcade:
"As the main point of contact for Child’s Play, Jamie has been buried under mail about this situation. Apparently some of the people giving to the cause seemed to think that they were paying for a new ending to Mass Effect. She’s been asked what the goal is, and how much they need to raise in order to get the ending produced. We’ve also been contacted by PayPal due to a high number of people asking for their donations back. This is in addition to readers who simply couldn’t understand how this was connected to Child’s Play’s mission. We were dealing with a lot of very confused people, more every day, and that told us we had a problem.

We have policies in place to deal with direct abuse: we don’t allow companies to use Child’s Play in order to sell more stuff. To that end we do not allow deals like “1 cent of every dollar goes to Child’s Play!” or whatever. But this isn’t anywhere on that continuum! This is a passionate community that formed around one thing, and some of that passion was expressed in charitable giving. I actually support this cause, but I am a pessimist, and I’m thinking about the next time something like this happens - when someone attaches Child’s Play to something we can’t get behind, or leverages your history of generosity and fellow feeling for their own weird bullshit. So, we need to have something like a policy on this. This is the best way I can think to say it:

Child’s Play cannot be a tool to draw attention to a cause. Child’s Play must be the Cause."

Child's Play manager Jamie Dillon:
"While we did receive some negative mail regarding the drive, I can assure you our decision was not about bowing to pressure from anyone- corporate, individual, or otherwise,

“The real concern on our end was the slippery slope that attaching causes to fundraising for Child’s Play can create. While RME had the best of intentions and was overwhelmingly generous, it shed light on an issue that we needed to address. It pointed out a dangerous precedent for others to use the charity for agendas we clearly do not support.

“We’re taking a step back and looking at our policies to see what we can do to still appreciate and support the community while avoiding implications of Child’s Play being attached to other causes.”

Otherwise next time it could be the Florida Family Association running a Child's Play donation drive to publicise their views on SWTOR.

Charities do sometimes turn down donations that seem designed to rehabilitate someone's image (see: NOTW free advertising for charities, undesirable donors to universities). Those actually or apparently designed to promote another cause aren't too different; you don't want to get your charity thought to support the person or the other cause.
Dan H at 12:12 on 2012-03-28
To be fair, Dan, I think you're misrepresenting the Child's Play business by
implying they're throwing an ego-paddy.


Fair point.

Although I think they're being naive to pretend that nobody is ever going to donate money to their charity for selfish reasons - charitable donations *are* a big PR exercise, and ultimately chartities decide whose money to accept or reject on a case-by-case basis. Rejecting somebody's money is a political stance just as much as accepting it, after all.

People treating the project as working like a kickstarter is more of an issue, but I think that's a problem for RTME3 to deal with (since it actually undermines the entire point of the drive in the first place). I can also see that this is a PR minefield that Child's Play might feel better off out of, but I don't think refusing to take money from RTME3 is a completely neutral action. As you point out, it's rather like a University refusing to take money from a particular donor - you're making a clear statement of protest.
Arthur B at 12:20 on 2012-03-28
Plus there's the whole issue of Child's Play's founders having a business relationship with Bioware so there's a neutrality minefield going on there.
Shimmin at 14:44 on 2012-03-28
Rejecting somebody's money is a political stance just as much as accepting it, after all.... I don't think refusing to take money from RTME3 is a completely neutral action. As you point out, it's rather like a University refusing to take money from a particular donor - you're making a clear statement of protest.

Well, that seems to be one of the reasons they were trying to establish a blanket policy; to avoid making pointed ad-hoc judgements next time it comes up. It's just that this is the first case (AFAIK). If the policy had been in place before RTME3 then rejecting their payments would be neutral enough. I think saying “actually, we don’t want to be associated with any other cause via collateral donations” is quite different from “we don’t want money from this cause, but we’ll consider each case separately”.

It does seem naive not to have put something in place earlier, but I suppose it’s not necessarily something you think about. The selfishness thing is also a bit of a hazy zone; you want to draw the line somewhere between “people feel good when they donate” and “dictators use charity to rehabilitate public image at the expense of charity's image” but where? Some people give conspicuously to show off their generosity, but if they’re normal folks it’s not going to reflect badly on the charity. Some companies give money to charity as part of a pragmatic strategy to keep employees happy or seem generally benevolent. Some companies donate ostentatiously to address a particular image problem. Some people try to use donations to rehabilitate themselves or to get them influence or publicity. And here we’re talking about people giving money to charity to draw attention to another cause (or at least, that is how many people interpret it). You’ve got to have a cut-off point, and I think “will the public mistakenly associate you with this cause or this person’s agenda?” is a reasonable one.
Dan H at 18:36 on 2012-03-28
You’ve got to have a cut-off point, and I think “will the public mistakenly associate you with this cause or this person’s agenda?” is a reasonable one.


That's the thing, I actually think it's a very *bad* cut-off point, because it makes exactly the same ad-hoc judgements but pretends it's applying an impartial criterion.

The problem is that "agenda" is a label people apply to the beliefs of people they disagree with. Do you really think that they would have instituted this policy if a bunch of Bioware fans had raised $80,000 dollars in order to celebrate the end of the Mass Effect saga?
Arthur B at 19:08 on 2012-03-28
Also, Child's Play passively sat back and let the donations roll in for over a week before they suddenly had a crisis of conscience. Even considering the time it'd take for them to have conflabs about whether or not they wanted to go down this path, that's way past the statute of limitations for being able to take the moral high ground.
Shimmin at 19:27 on 2012-03-28
The problem is that "agenda" is a label people apply to the beliefs of people they disagree with.

Well, I'm using it to mean an aim people want to achieve or a viewpoint they want to promote.

Do you really think that they would have instituted this policy if a bunch of Bioware fans had raised $80,000 dollars in order to celebrate the end of the Mass Effect saga?

Interesting one, and I suspect not - but then I don't think they're quite the same. What does "celebrate the end of Mass Effect" even mean as an agenda? It doesn't have any apparent objectives to achieve, there's no cause to promote. Conversely, "convince Bioware to make a new ending" is a goal, and donating to Child's Play was being used to exert pressure on Bioware.

The second might give people the impression that Child's Play is associated with the campaign to lobby Bioware. The first might give people the impression that... people enjoyed a game and want to support gaming charities? I'm not sure. What I don't see is any way it's likely to cause confusion or negative publicity for the charity, any more than if people raise money for Barnardo's in honour of a new film of Oliver Twist. On the other hand, if they raised money for Books for Kids to publicise objections to delays in the Game of Thrones series, that'd be well dodgy.

Let's say instead that a bunch of fans had raised $80,000 for Child's Play to appeal for a sequel to Mass Effect. That I would agree is a direct parallel, and I'd say they'd be equally wise to refuse the donation for the same reasons, even though it's a "positive" campaign rather than a "protest" one. Whether they actually would, I can't say.
http://webcomcon.blogspot.com/ at 19:45 on 2012-03-28
Can someone explain the original motivation for donating to Child's Play as a response to the Mass Effect 3 ending? I don't understand the step between "I really hated the Mass Effect 3 ending" and "I'm giving money to Child's Play". They seem pretty causally disconnected.
Arthur B at 20:06 on 2012-03-28
My understanding is that it went like this:

- ME3 ending haters went "the ending is shit, we want it fixed".

- Ending defenders went "you are weeping babies".

- Someone said "Hey, let's do a charity drive - putting up money would indicate we're serious enough about this to put our hands in our pockets, plus giving to charity isn't exactly the sort of thing massively entitled people do."

- People donated.

- People mistook the charity drive for a kickstarter.

- Cupcakes.
Ethan E at 05:43 on 2012-03-29
My understanding is that it went like this:

- ME3 ending haters went "the ending is shit, we want it fixed".

- Ending defenders went "you are weeping babies".

- Someone said "Hey, let's do a charity drive - putting up money would indicate we're serious enough about this to put our hands in our pockets, plus giving to charity isn't exactly the sort of thing massively entitled people do."

- People donated.

- People mistook the charity drive for a kickstarter.

- Cupcakes.


When you put it like that, it almost seems like video games can pay charities, until cupcakes occur, but only if the video games are bad in some way.

I never attempt to make sense of these sort of things.
Wardog at 09:27 on 2012-03-29
Kafka-esque indeed.

As Bioware awoke one morning from uneasy dreams it found itself transformed in its bed into a gigantic cupcake...
Arthur B at 10:09 on 2012-03-29
Or the Dan Brown version: "Critic's darling Bioware smelled fresh-baked cupcakes and knew they were its own..."
Wardog at 10:12 on 2012-03-29
*dies*
Wardog at 10:13 on 2012-03-29
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a high profile videogame company in possession of a franchise with a sucky ending must be in want of some cupcakes...
Arthur B at 10:51 on 2012-03-29
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of Bioware, it was the winter of cupcakes.
valse de la lune at 11:02 on 2012-03-29
Of fans' first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden ending, blue-red-green,
Brought wank into the world, and all our woe
With loss of Shepard, till one greater fan
With cupcakes DLC regain'd the Normandy seat
Sing heavenly muse
Arthur B at 11:29 on 2012-03-29
We were somewhere around Bioware on the edge of the desert when the cupcakes began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive...." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge prawns, all swooping and screeching and diving around the ship, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to the Citadel. And a voice was screaming "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn endings?"

Then it was quiet again. Garrus had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Turian sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Normandy toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those endings, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
Wardog at 11:43 on 2012-03-29
In the beginning, Bioware created the Shepard.

And Shepard was without form and void. And the spirit of Bioware moved upon the face of Shepard.

And Bioware said, Let Shepard be a white, conventionally attractive heterosexual cis-gendered man.

And Bioware saw that it was good.
Wardog at 11:45 on 2012-03-29
In my younger and more vulnerable years, the internet gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” it told me, “just remember to send them cupcakes instead.”
Arthur B at 11:48 on 2012-03-29
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a Shepard coming down along the road and this Shepard that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby starchild.
Arthur B at 11:52 on 2012-03-29
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended game designers are so amazingly primitive that they still think deus ex machina are a pretty neat idea.
Shimmin at 12:46 on 2012-03-29
It is true that I have sent six thousand cupcakes to the headquarters of my favourite game developer, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not their oppressor. At first I shall be called a madman—madder than the AI I met in his lair at the Crucible. Later some of my readers will weigh each statement, correlate it with the known facts, and ask themselves how I could have responded otherwise than as I did after facing the evidence of that horror—that thing on the spaceship.
Bjoern at 13:46 on 2012-03-29
I put the cupcakes in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of Mass Effect 3 shirts, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're pastry, go technical; if they think you're technical, go pastry. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as pastry as possible.
Wardog at 13:58 on 2012-03-29
The sky above the Crucible was either red, green or blue, tuned to the colour of whatever ending you picked...
Bjoern at 14:06 on 2012-03-29
Someone must have slandered Casey H., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was sent cupcakes.
Arthur B at 14:13 on 2012-03-29
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of Mass Effect 3 to correlate all its' players' choices. We live on a jungle planet of ignorance in the midst of multicoloured explosions of mass relays, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The fans, each straining for their own explanation, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated plot holes will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of Bioware's frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new cupcake.
Arthur B at 14:21 on 2012-03-29
Oh wow, Creepy Howie's actually really good for these...

Bear in mind closely that I did not experience any actual closure at the end. To say that Indoctrination was the cause of what I inferred - that last straw which sent me racing onto the Internet and through the wild forums of Bioware on a commandeered web browser at night - is to ignore the plainest facts of my final experience. Notwithstanding the deep things I saw and heard, and the admitted vividness the impression produced on me by these things, I cannot prove even now whether I was right or wrong in my hideous inference. For after all Bioware's incompetence establishes nothing. Professional reviewers found nothing amiss in the game despite the awful writing at the ending and epilogue. It was just as though the writer had walked out casually to think up a proper ending and failed to return. There was not even a sign that player's choices had been made, or that those horrible sacrifices and compromises had an impact on the galaxy.
Bjoern at 14:29 on 2012-03-29
Shorter Mass Effect 1-3, as parsed by Kurt Vonnegut: All this happened, more or less.
Shimmin at 14:39 on 2012-03-29
For Sale: Mass Effect, never finished.
Wardog at 14:43 on 2012-03-29
You're all killing me :D :D :D
Wardog at 14:44 on 2012-03-29
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Casey Hudsen was to remember that distant afternoon when he decided to write the ending of Mass Effect 3 all by himself...
Shimmin at 15:14 on 2012-03-29
In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare crashing and booming, and a faint, distant babbling as of some interminable exposition. It is not dream—it is not, I fear, even madness—for too much has already happened to give me these merciful doubts. The plot is a mangled ruin; I alone know why, and such is my knowledge that I am about to reformat my drive for fear my mind shall be mangled in the same way. Down unlit and illimitable corridors of eldritch phantasy sweeps the short, glowy Nemesis that drives me to self-annihilation.
Bjoern at 15:20 on 2012-03-29
"What’s it going to be then, eh?” There was me, that is the Star Child, and my three droogs, that is Shepard, Anderson, and The Illusive Man, and we sat in the Citadel Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the fate of the galaxy, a flip dark chill bastard though dry.
Arthur B at 15:23 on 2012-03-29
A long time ago on an Internet far, far away...

ENDING
WARS

It is a period of mass butthurt.
Rebel fanboys, striking
from a hidden forum, have won
their first victory against
the evil Bioware Empire.

During a cupcake delivery, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to Bioware's
ultimate weapon, the DLC
STAR, a premium content
initiative with enough downloads
to fill an entire hard drive.

Pursued by Bioware's
sinister agents, Princess
FemShep races home aboard
her starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
fans and restore
closure to the ME3 plot...
Arthur B at 15:40 on 2012-03-29
No one would have believed, in the first years of the twenty-first century, that player feedback was being watched keenly and closely by game designers with intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as players busied themselves about their games they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency players went to and fro about the galaxy making their little choices, serene in the assurances that their decisions mattered. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the respected scribes of Bioware as sources of appalling writing, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of their failure as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, RPG fans fancied there might be other RPG fans within Bioware, perhaps equal to themselves and ready to welcome player input. Yet, at the development meetings, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this franchise with weary eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in 2012 came the great disappointment.
Arthur B at 16:07 on 2012-03-29
My name is Commander Shepard, and my guess, since I plan to delay the publication of this document for at least a century and a quarter beyond the date of my franchise's demise, is that you do not recognise my name. Some say that I am a gambling Spectre and those that say so are correct, so my wager with you, Dear Reader, would be that you have neither played nor heard of any of my games or DLC. Perhaps you Krogan or Asari peoples a hundred and twenty-five or so years in my future do not speak Galactic at all. Perhaps you dress like Geth, live in gas-lighted space stations, travel around in Reaper hulls, and communicate by telegraphed thoughts unhindered by any spoken or written language.

Even so, I would wager my current fortune, such as it is, and all future war spoils from my campaigns, such as they may be, on the fact that you do remember the name and games and plots and invented characters of my friend and former collaborator, a certain Casey Hudson.

So this true story shall be about my friend (or at least about the man who was once my friend) Casey Hudson and about the Starchild accident that took away his peace of mind, his health, and, some might whisper, his sanity. This true story will be about Casey Hudson’s final five years and about his growing obsession during that time with a boy—if boy he was—named Catalyst, as well as with murder, death, corpses, Reapers, Indoctrination, games-as-art, space ghosts, and the choice of colours available in that shiny upper region of the Citadel that the writer always called “my artistic vision” or “the Great Crucible.” In this manuscript (which, as I have explained—for legal reasons as well as for reasons of honour—I intend to seal away from all eyes for more than one hundred years after his death and my own), I shall answer the question which perhaps no one else alive in our time knew to ask—“Did the famous and loveable and honourable Casey Hudson plot to murder an innocent franchise and dissolve away its fanbase in a pit of caustic plot holes and secretly inter what was left of it, mere speculation and some fanfic, in DLC hastily published by the devloper that was an important part of Hudson’s own childhood? And did Hudson then scheme to scatter the poor franchise’s internal coherence, themes, illusion of player freedom, non-linear plotline, and fan engagement on an inhospitable jungle planet? And if so, or even if Hudson only dreamed he did these things, what part did a very real starchild named Catalyst have in the onset of such madness?”
http://jmkmagnum.blogspot.com/ at 16:13 on 2012-03-29
By the year 2130, the Mars-based radars were discovering new endings at the rate of a dozen per day. The SPACEGUARD computers automatically calculated their plotholes and stored the information in their own enormous memories, so that every few months any interested gamer could have a look at the accumulated DLC. These were now quite impressive.
http://jmkmagnum.blogspot.com/ at 16:15 on 2012-03-29
I always get the shakes just before an ending. I've had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. Bioware's psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me it isn't fear, it isn't anything important--it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.

I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time.
Axiomatic at 20:11 on 2012-03-29
I'm Commander Axiomatic and this is my favorite thread on Ferretbrain.com
Arthur B at 23:43 on 2012-03-29
OK, so the cupcakes apparently got delivered to Bioware today. Bioware decided that since "ultimately the reason that they were sent was not done in the context of celebrating the work or accomplishment of the Mass Effect 3 team", they'd take all the notes which were delivered with the cupcakes (which contained feedback about the game) and donated the cupcakes themselves to charity, rather than gorging on the cupcakes inspired by their own failure.

So... the fans were donating to charity... but that'd violate the charity's neutrality, so they had to stop... so they got cupcakes... but the cupcakes went to charity... but the fans were already giving to charity... but the fans shouldn't have given to charity because that would violate the charity's neutrality... but the charities took the cupcakes... but the cupcakes were there instead of the charity... but the neutrality meant they couldn't take the donations... but the cupcakes became donations... but the donations aren't allowed... but the money was for the charity... but then then money was for the cupcakes... but then the cupcakes were for Bioware... but Bioware donated the cupcakes... but the donation wasn't neutral... but Child's Play took the money... but Child's Play didn't want the money... but the money wasn't for Bioware... but the cupcakes were for Bioware... but... the money... the cupcakes...

/sobs

(It's been pointed out that this means when presented with a choice of red, blue or green, Bioware took the fourth option. Would be nice if they let us have that chance!)
Alasdair Czyrnyj at 00:46 on 2012-03-30
Question:

All of these people who are buying and mailing cupcakes or donating to charity to register their disappointment at the end of a video game...couldn't they just give their money to me instead? Because, while they seem to neither need or want their money, I would very much like to have said money.

I don't understand the information age.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 11:59 on 2012-03-30
Damn. I wanted some of that sweet cashmoney.

I don't even know how to parse that idea – how can you at once believe
something has “depth and cognitive impact” and also dislike it? Isn't that like
hating a book for being too well written?



I guess it's possible to respect the technique of something and dislike it for other reasons. Which of course isn't to say that that something is actually good.
Dan H at 21:23 on 2012-03-30
I guess it's possible to respect the technique of something and dislike it for other reasons. Which of course isn't to say that that something is actually good.


True, but I get the impression that the people who are defending the game on "artistic" grounds are just falling into the old "downer = art" trap.

And while I can imagine disliking something but believing it to be *technically accomplished*, I'm still not sure I can get my head around disliking something and still considering it "deep".

Admittedly, I suspect that a lot of this comes down to semantics, and maybe I'm just too intellectually insecure to admit not liking something I thought possessed genuine artistic merit, but if I think something has depth and cognitive impact, then I might say I didn't enjoy it, or couldn't get into it, or plain and simple couldn't *understand* it but I'd never say I didn't "like" it. Maybe it's just that I'm an opinionated jerk - I tend to treat "I don't like this" as a synonym for "this is bad".
Shimmin at 22:10 on 2012-03-30
I'm still not sure I can get my head around disliking something and still considering it "deep"

But Dan, you have only to think of my reaction when confronted with meaningful literary books that win prizes...

In all seriousness, I quite often don't like things that are probably both clever and worthy, usually (but not always) because they're miserable. In other cases they are just really freaking long, yes I am looking at you, Wolf Hall.
Arthur B at 22:16 on 2012-03-30
"I enjoyed this", to me, means "this made me happy inside", whereas "I liked this" means "I found some value in this", so "enjoy" is a subset of "like".

Either way I tend don't think "I don't like this" is a perfect synonym for "this is bad" because there's a distinction between "I don't like this, but I can see how other people might" and "I don't like this, and I don't see how anyone else could".
Dan H at 23:40 on 2012-03-30
@Shim


But Dan, you have only to think of my reaction when confronted with meaningful literary books that win prizes...


True, but I think there's a bit of a difference. You didn't like Wolf Hall, and as a result you consistently tried to get it voted out of the Text Factor. You didn't do what a lot of people on the internet are doing, which is strenuously argue that the stuff you didn't like didn't matter because it was so brilliant and artistic.

@Arthur

"I enjoyed this", to me, means "this made me happy inside", whereas "I liked this" means "I found some value in this", so "enjoy" is a subset of "like".


Yeah, I think that's about right. What's confusing me is people saying "I didn't like this" and then strenuously defending the value they found in it.

Basically I think these people are (a) confusing "like" with "enjoy" and (b) confusing "not enjoying something" with "that thing being art".
Wardog at 23:55 on 2012-03-30
In all seriousness, I quite often don't like things that are probably both clever and worthy, usually (but not always) because they're miserable. In other cases they are just really freaking long, yes I am looking at you, Wolf Hall.


We scarred Shim badly :(
Janne Kirjasniemi at 17:23 on 2012-03-31
I think the rule like=good, don't like=is bad, is a good enough thing to do. At least it's straightforward. Many might wish to say that something is deep and significant even if they didn't like it to somehow give themselves some depth and a sort of illusion of objectivity, since they are able to appreciate things for their real artistic values through the fog of their own prejudices. I guess it's just imaginable that there might be a book, for example, which gives one bad feelings, but which isn't a bad book. For example I remember that Hobb's Assassin's Quest gave me intense bad feelings when I was younger and I did not like it for that reason, but I couldn't really with good conscience say that it is a bad book; rather it was too good at provoking certain moods and thoughts.

Would it be fair to say that ME3 is a good linear plotted action game, but a failure(in the end) as a CRPG? Although nobody seems to be defending it in that manner. Have to like the claim that the ending was intended to provoke the players, though. So Andy Kaufman did fake his death and now works at Bioware?
Arthur B at 09:26 on 2012-04-05
Another thing about the Child's Play stuff. The Child's Play people have said, when they decided to enforce the whole neutrality deal, that they wouldn't want to get entangled with any "Buy this and $1 from your purchase will go to Child's Play" deals. (See the quote from Holkins above.)

Uuuh... but they've been happy to reach just that sort of deal with EA before, with the charity donations sweetening the deal on DLC costumes for Battlefield 3.
Shimmin at 09:39 on 2012-04-05
They've also been connected to Humble Bundle, getting a portion of the payment (both portion and payment being determined by the purchaser).

They really should sit down and think long and hard about exactly what their views actually are on this stuff. Do they actually want to say "you can give money to Child's Play, but it must be completely isolated from anything else"? Do they want to forbid linking it to sales, or just to exert complete control over those agreements? The to-and-froing is making them look bad.
Arthur B at 10:34 on 2012-04-05
Yeah, this fine talk about how the charity should be the overriding cause really doesn't sit well with that sort of tie-in. There would be plenty of people who bought the Santa outfit because they wanted their Battlefield 3 character to shoot people whilst dressed as Santa. (To be fair in the case of the Humble Bundle I believe paying nothing was an option, so if you're paying money for it you are electing to pay money to charity, but I suppose at least some people made donations not because they cared about the charities but because they wanted the promotion to be a success so there would be more in future.)

The thing is, charity donations are kind of public relations exercises whether you like it or not, because people are going to take note of the fact you've made that donation unless you do them anonymously and secretly. And people have known this and made a big show of making donations literally since Biblical times. (Seriously, Jesus talks about it in a couple of the Gospels.) So if Child's Play stance is now "you shouldn't give donations to us for the sake of getting good PR", then they're pretty much going to have to switch to an anonymous-donations-only policy.
Arthur B at 10:54 on 2012-04-05
(Oh, and I notice that the developers do get a cut from the Humble Bundle, so again people could donate money purely for the sake of making sure the devs get a cut without giving a hoot about the charities.)
Arthur B at 14:33 on 2012-04-05
Triple post because newsflash: Bioware are going to bring out free DLC to expand on the ending.

They're only talking about it expanding on and clarifying the current ending though, so I do wonder whether it's going to be enough to make people happy. Particularly since once of the very common complaints I've seeing is the way Shepard mutely accepts the Starchild's logic rather than pointing out how bullshit it is.
Arthur B at 16:54 on 2012-04-05
Quadpost again: it's official, the Extended Cut isn't changing anything, it's just adding more clarity to the current endings.

Because the problem isn't that the endings are bad, it's because the players are too stupid to understand them.
valse de la lune at 17:14 on 2012-04-05
I foresee more "War Asset Acquired: Tri-Color Cupcakes" in Bioware's future.
Wardog at 17:32 on 2012-04-05
Yeah, I've been inspired by this, and the Mind Meld article you linked to in the Playpen to create a new theme. Currently it has no articles but I'm sure that will change.
Arthur B at 17:39 on 2012-04-05
I foresee more "War Asset Acquired: Tri-Color Cupcakes" in Bioware's future.

But this time they'll expand on the cupcakes with SPRINKLES! to make sure the message gets through.

(The message is "DEUS EX DID IT BETTER".)
Dan H at 17:45 on 2012-04-05

Because the problem isn't that the endings are bad, it's because the players are too stupid to understand them.


The sad thing is that this really does seem to have become the accepted narrative. The problem was that the original ending was too *mature* and *sophisticated* for the average gamer to understand.
Fin at 19:29 on 2012-04-05
i wish i could use those magic words artistic integrity to excuse every terrible thing i do. seems like a pretty sweet deal.

if they were gonna be lazy about the dlc they could have just provided one that cuts to the end credits as shepard and anderson are looking out into space just before the deus ex machina hits. which would still be a piece of shit, but honestly, my problems with me3 are mostly with the handling of my decisions in the entire main plot, so i doubt i'd be satisfied whatever they do.
Arthur B at 10:59 on 2012-04-12
To talk about something other than the ending, this chart seems to show a drastic reduction in quest variety in ME3 compared to the previous games. Can anyone confirm/discredit this?
Dan H at 19:06 on 2012-04-12
I only watched Kyra play the game over her shoulder, but I'm pretty sure ME3 was a lot more linear. I suspect that it's a bit of a distortion because the *number* of quests isn't quite the same as the amount of *game time* involved in those quests.

I'd also point out that "fetch quests" aren't necessarily bad. They're just easy to implement and therefore easy to implement badly or shoddily.
Robinson L at 20:30 on 2012-04-16
Dammit, I came in too late for the Mass Lit Effect party. Great stuff.

Kyra: I've been inspired by this, and the Mind Meld article you linked to in the Playpen to create a new theme.

Okay, I give up. I still can't work out if the Emocakes theme is supposed to be sarcastic, or a genuine signal “Look, I still love you, it's just this thing you made kind of … sucks.”

They're not many, but I can think of a couple of things I neither liked nor enjoyed, but which I wouldn't necessarily label “bad.” Some I even found value in, though you wouldn't find me going around defending the parts I didn't like.

There are also a number of things which I really quite liked, but would still cheerfully describe as bad.

… I have a distinct feeling I was trying to make some sort of point there. Oh well.
Cressida at 03:06 on 2012-08-14
I haven't played any of the Mass Effect games, so I'm afraid I have no intelligent comments to make on the main subject of the article. I'd just like to say that I would LOVE to read your thoughts on Ron Edwards and the Forge at greater length.
Arthur B at 14:30 on 2012-08-14
OH GOD YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'VE UNLEASHED.
Dan H at 14:48 on 2012-08-14
What Arthur said.

Short answer: I think that the Forge, like most places, has some good ideas and some stupid ideas, and I'm extremely leery of the self-reinforcing doctrine the Forge seems to produce. Basically I think the "threefold model" is nonsense, but that doesn't mean that some people can't have used it to make some games that were good in some ways.

I think the Forge basically did two useful things. I think it provided a reasonable place for indie RPG designers to hang out, although to be honest they've been pretty much eclipsed these days by other less pretentious movements (the Old School Revival being, I think, the most obvious). I also think it did a good job in articulating some useful ideas, in particular, I think they did well at highlighting *just how much* that gets taken for granted in RPGs can be seen as a feature of individual game systems (traditional allocation of GM power being the most obvious example).

Where I think it goes very wrong is when they start declaring that they have a monopoly on understanding "story" and that games that aren't "narrativist" don't really involve "story" at all and people just think they do. And of course the whole brain damage thing was monumentally stupid and offensive.
Arthur B at 16:29 on 2012-08-14
Dan and I literally spent years talking about this stuff so I have some fairly developed views on the subject.

As far as I'm concerned the big thing about the Forge version of the threefold model (other, less dogmatic and more useful versions had appeared in the past on other fora) - and the more expansive "big model" which supplanted it - was that it began from a really important insight and then drew absolutely the wrong conclusions from it.

In their case, the insight was "different people want different things out of RPGs". They then went about applying this in all the wrong ways:

- They imagined people's motivations for playing could be slotted neatly into one of three categories.
- They thought the best way to make sure everyone maximised their enjoyment of RPGs was to design games which aim squarely for only one of the possible motivations for participating.
- They thought games which tried to cater to different people's preferences would inevitably end up sabotaging themselves.
- They implicitly assumed that the responsibility for making sure everyone's preferences are catered to at the gaming table lies with game designers and that you can control game table interactions from behind a designer's desk.

Whereas I think Dan and I both tend to believe the following:

- People's motivations for playing are complicated and can only be sussed out if you talk to them as individuals and get to know them and generally show an interest in them as human beings.
- The best way to maximise your enjoyment of RPGs is to accept that you're not going to get it all your way all the time, and that there's nothing wrong with reaching a compromise with other participants so that their fun can be included alongside your fun and hopefully the two breeds of fun won't tread on each other. There's multiple reasons for this: a) just because something isn't your optimal breed of fun doesn't mean you can't get any enjoyment out of it at all, b) exposure to unfamiliar types of fun may broaden your horizons, and most importantly c) if you're only willing to play very narrowly defined games catering to a very precisely defined definition of fun you're going to get less opportunities to actually play and enjoy yourself than if you go for a "big tent" approach.
- On that note, games which can cater to different types of preferences are adaptable whereas games which are laser-focused tend (in my experience and I suspect Dan's) to lack staying power and lose their appeal after a while.
- I think most of all I tend to think the responsibility for making sure everyone's preferences are catered to at the gaming table lies with, um, everyone at a table. You have a responsibility to work out and enunciate what you want out of a game. If the other participants give a damn about your enjoyment then they'll most likely help you get that, just as if you care about other human beings at all you'll want to support (or at least not directly tread on) other people's enjoyment. If the other participants don't care about you then I question why you are participating, and if you don't care about anyone else's enjoyment you're probably not someone I want to invite to a game anyway.

Between the whole "if I'm not getting this very defined thing which I have decided is what I enjoy about RPGs all the time, then I'm only getting 20 minutes of fun in 4 hours of play" attitude and the utter disrespect for others' preferences evidenced by the whole "brain damage" thing, I suspect that Ron Edwards as a player would be insufferably selfish and a complete drag on a session unless he happened to be interested in what was happening right in front of him. Similarly, I imagine that as a GM he'd be a nightmare unless you were perfectly in tune with how he preferred to run games. One of the things about Forge games providing lots of structured rules for sharing narrative control is that it essentially liberates participants to be as selfish as they feel like being in a session because the structured distribution of narrative power means no one person can really do that much damage to the others' experience, and I found that in a lot of Forge games I ended up feeling like all the players ended up existing in their own narrative bubble of what they wanted without actually finding any common ground. The "shared creative space" the Forge talk about isn't shared in their games; it's rationed.
Cressida at 02:54 on 2012-08-15
Oh believe me, you've only whetted my appetite! I actually had never heard about the "brain damage" comment before, and I thought your reference to it in the article was just a satirical characterization of Edwards' overall views. I've spent much of the day busily following links to learn more about that particular debacle.

Seriously, what would it take to get one of you to post an actual article about this? I think it would make a great addition to Ferretbrain. You've clearly thought extensively on the subject, and the time seems ripe for a look back at the Forge, what with it being in "winter phase" for over a year at this point. I'd love to go into even more detail on some of these points--the "threefold model" and the idea that games have to serve only one category, for instance.

I've played a few Forge-y games, and to be fair, they've all been enjoyable. There are more that I'd like to try. But I find that the games themselves are in general much more fun (and less of a chore to read) than the rhetoric of Forgeist game theory ... except that every once in a while, the Forge folks do come up with a useful term or a concept that gets me thinking, so I can't quite write it all off as simply "not for me."

Where I think it goes very wrong is when they start declaring that they have a monopoly on understanding "story" and that games that aren't "narrativist" don't really involve "story" at all and people just think they do.

Arrgh, yes. Drives me up the freaking wall.
Dan H at 09:20 on 2012-08-15
To be fair the Forge, I don't think it's true that they pidgeonhole people or games - it's a fairly clear part of the "Big Model" that people shift between Creative Agendas, and that one could favour a mixture of CAs at any given point (although they insist that one should be "primary").

Where I think they go wrong is in lumping what I personally consider to be about 90% of all roleplaying that I've ever seen anybody engage in or talk about under the banner of "simulationist". We are, after all, talking about a banner that could reasonably cover *all* of the incarnations of D&D (except possibly 4E), everything White Wolf has ever put out, Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk 2020, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Over the Edge and the 40K RPGs.

On the one hand, I think it was useful to challenge the assumption that "you play a character and control that character, and your chances of succeeding in actions depend on how good your character is at the things you are trying to do" was an integral part of what it *meant* to be an RPG, it does mean that the Forge provided very few insights into what to do with games that *do* follow that particular format.
Arthur B at 10:25 on 2012-08-15
To be fair the Forge, I don't think it's true that they pidgeonhole people or games - it's a fairly clear part of the "Big Model" that people shift between Creative Agendas, and that one could favour a mixture of CAs at any given point (although they insist that one should be "primary").

I think it is fairly clear that lip service is given in the Big Model to this idea but:
- I don't think that's what most Forge-influenced folk actually took away from the Big Model.
- I think saying "you can have a mix of creative agendas, but one should be primary at all times" lends itself to de facto pigeonholing because can you imagine a game which switched itself between gamist, narrativist, and simulationist modes at the drop of a hat depending on the current creative agenda?
- I think the actual creative agendas proposed are in no way helpful in actually ascertaining and providing what a playing group wants in a session. They're simultaneously categories so broad as to be almost entirely useless because they lack sufficient detail to really get a grip on what's called for, and actually rather limiting (in a pigeonhole sort of way) precisely because they smooth over the fine details and nuances.

To exapand on the last point: the other day ye and me played a game where the "primary creative agenda" - in the sense of the thing that everyone at the table agreed that they wanted to get out of the session - could be summed up as "smutty jokes, lulz, and ultraviolence".

Not only does that resist being broken down into gamist/simulationist/narrativist, but you actually make it more difficult and not less for a participant in the session - player or GM - to actually help bring that agenda about if you try to reduce it to the limited set of Creative Agendas the Forge offered.

You could argue that as a game design focused community the Forge wouldn't really be interested in aspects of an RPG session which a game's design can't really influence, so it makes sense to go for a more limited set of Creative Agendas if you are making a model optimised for game design. But as I understood it Ron Edwards and his little goblins presented the Big Model as a complete picture of How RPGs Work. It really ought to support all possible reasons for play but it really doesn't, and in particular falls down because each Creative Agenda implicitly assumes that RPGs are Serious Business. Gamism/Step On Up is all about taking the challenge represented by the game seriously. Simulationism/The Right To Dream is all about taking the exploration of setting/character seriously. Narrativism/Story Now is all about taking the process of storytelling seriously.

None of these encompass a game where the setting is treated as a big joke with the characters as punchlines, the challenge of the fights isn't really everyone's primary creative agenda and the story is a delivery system for chuckles - and yet, despite being the sort of game session which a certain type of self-important nerd would brush off as being casual messing about, we not only had a blast but you guys actually want me to run more of this stuff for you.

(It's notable that with a lot of Forge games the emphasis genuinely doesn't seem to be comedic, except they actually seem to turn out that way in practice. Dogs In the Vineyard is tremendously po-faced but always turns into farce in my experience.)
Dan H at 12:12 on 2012-08-15
I don't think our sporadic 40K game challenges the Big Model that much at all, it's very easily categorisable as a Simulationist game with some Gamist elements (we mostly care about feeling like awesome homoerotic space marines, with a side order in caring about beating the Genestealers by using our knowledge and understanding of the system).

The problem isn't that most games can't be described in terms of the Big Model, they absolutely can, it's just that pretty much every RPG I've ever been in could be described as "Simulationist with secondary Gamist elements", which makes the terms *completely fucking useless* as a way of describing games of the kind I actually want to play.

The only bit of the threefold that's remotely well explored is Narrativism, because it was hedged off in this little special box all on its own and was, as a result, extremely well described. It is notable, for example, that Ron deals with the difference between *his* preferred type of story-focused RPG and *other people's* preferred type of story-focused RPG by declaring that what other people are interested in *isn't really story*. So the way I run my D&D game and the way you run your Deathwatch game, and the way the OURPGSoc Society Game gets run (by everyone that has ever run it) and the way the folks at Flaming Sofa run their Changeling game are all treated as *basically the same thing*, while Narrativism gets to be something special on its own.

Arthur B at 13:58 on 2012-08-15
I think we are doing that thing where we are loudly agreeing with each other.

I didn't mean that you can't, if you wanted to, reduce our CA for that game to "Simulationism with a dash of Gamism". The point I was making was that in order to do that you need to lose almost all of the information which tells you anything useful about our game. As you point out, the three categories take approximation to the point of absurdity (like clumping under "simulationism" almost everything which happened in the hobby at all before the Forge geniuses showed up to rip the blindfolds from our eyes), so while you can shove our game into Forge-defined terms, doing so conveys no useful information whatsoever about our actual reasons for playing the game.

Like you say, as far as motivations to sit down and roll some dice go satirising Warhams through the medium of playing the Imperial Fists to the Space Marine and Sons of Dorn canon has more or less nothing in common with being railroaded through a Vampire Storyteller's lovingly crafted plot and appreciating their creative genius, and yet the Big Model can't actually tell the difference. Declaring that our game was mainly Simulationist is an entirely useless statement when it comes to working out what we were trying to accomplish, whether we succeeded, and whether we had fun because in order to have any sort of meaningful discussion of the game we need to claw back most of the information the Big Model junks.

You can describe our agenda in Big Model terms in the sense that you can reduce our agenda to the point where it fits. You can't describe our agenda in Big Model terms in the sense that someone could read "Simulationism with a pinch of Gamism" and still not have the remotest clue what we were up to.
Wardog at 17:30 on 2012-08-15
What are you guys talking about?

O.o
Arthur B at 17:33 on 2012-08-15
Scientology for dorks.

We should probably just bite the bullet and do an article or peacast on it or something.
Cressida at 03:56 on 2012-08-16
"Scientology for dorks"--love it! That could even be the title of your article!

You make an excellent point about how simulationist/gamist describes a huge percentage of games without actually describing them. Also, the discussion surrounding the "brain damage" comment has been very helpful. I thought I knew a fair amount about GNS theory and the Forge, but I'm learning a lot about the online atmosphere when it was at its height.
Arthur B at 17:33 on 2013-03-07
So, the long-awaited Citadel DLC is out and it sounds amazingly tonally inappropriate.

The article writer does have a good point that whilst in principle the DLC slots in halfway through the timeline, in practice most ME3 players are going to load it up and play it after playing through the ending at least once. (Indeed, I imagine there'll be a few who mentally retcon the thing as happening after the Destroy ending.)

On the other hand, I can't help but think that a) stragglers who want to do a runthrough with all the DLC installed are going to have a more incoherent experience as a result of this massive tonal speedbump, and b) every time Bioware toss something new into the Mass Effect 3 single-player experience for the sake of trying to please the fans it makes the thing look like more of a mess, not less.
Wardog at 21:47 on 2013-03-07
But... Last Tango With Garrus.
http://arilou-skiff.livejournal.com/ at 12:27 on 2013-03-08
Yeah, it's massively tonally inapproporiate, entirely silly... And so much goddamn fun :p
Wardog at 13:22 on 2013-03-08
Now that I made that joke, I feel I have nothing left to say ever.

Also, I am totally up for this DLC. Fan service? Well, I used to be a fan of this game. SERVE ME.
Arthur B at 13:35 on 2013-03-08
I guess fanservice is better than whatever the opposite is. (Fandisservice? Fanspite?)
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