Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mass Effect 3

Yeah. I know. It isn't Tuesday and it is a non-Star Wars tangent. Oh well. I've been meaning to write something about this for a while, but have been waiting until the shock of playing the game has worn off.

It should come as no surprise to folks who have read my blog that I am a fan of the Mass Effect video game series- or that I am a fan of the producer of that series, Bioware. This is why it pains me to say that the Mass Effect series- which was very fun all the way through (including the third in the series)- ended on such a lame, WTF moment that my entire view of the series has been destroyed. That's right, the last ten minutes of the game were enough to destroy hundreds of hours of fun.

The reasons why this is are many, but essentially boil down to this: The end of the game presents the player with three choices. These choices have little or nothing to do with the decisions you have made throughout the entire series- and no matter what you have done prior to reaching these choices, you will have only these three endings. This game base based upon the idea that it was a players choices that 'made' the game. Each player was given the framework to tell their own story. You could play anything from a paragon of virtue, always doing what is right to a complete pragmatic jerk, willing to kill anything that stood in his way. THAT is what made the game a roleplaying game. Unfortunately, it ended with a scene that took none of that into account.

I could literally write for pages on this, but I will instead point to an article written by someone who used to work at Bioware:

Brent Knowles, who was the lead designer on Dragon Age: Origins, and one of the old guard Bioware developers (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights), and, when he quit Bioware, made the interesting observation that "Bioware is no longer the company I remember". He's talked a little bit about the ME3 situation on his blog, but they're mainly comments to other posts. Check it out at:

One thing he did say, I thought I would share, as it's a sentiment I happen to agree with:

"I read one recent blog post where the writer basically said "the ending was awesome because it was just like a movie" and I think she was missing the point.

It is a game. Not a movie.

And more specifically, its a role-playing game. The players are *part* of the game. Part of the process of building and experiencing the game, much more so than with most other forms of entertainment.

Entitlement is really a right, for the gamer, because they have participated, actively, in the game itself.

Again, I can't speak to the actual ending myself, because I have not played it but in general I'd say a Role-Playing Video Game Trilogy Ending should (try to) do the following:

1. Reward the player's choices throughout the series. The big stuff they did should be noted. They should *feel* like they had a unique impact on the world.

2. End on a positive note. This is really important for video in general is full of s****y stuff happening all the time. When I invest a hundred hours into a game I need to walk away feeling like a hero.

When you waste a couple hours of a person's life with an artsy/depressing movie or short story or even a novel, it is more forgivable because the time spent is less. And presumably the consumer knew what they were going into when they started. Certain directors create certain styles of movie. Certain writers write specific types of fiction.

On the other hand somebody playing an epic role-playing video-game trilogy is going to *expect* to be the hero and save the universe. That's why they are playing the game. When expectations don't match reality, disappointment is created.

It might be an artistic/creative move to go with a different style of ending but I feel its the wrong choice, especially for a videogame *trilogy*. Make your middle game bleak if you want to, but end the series on a high note."

I couldn't agree more with what Mr. Knowles says here- though in truth the 'happy' ending wasn't as important to me as one in which I felt that my actions had an impact.


Anyway, I'm going to just stop now, before I get depressed again.

What an awesome series...until the last ten minutes.

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