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RandomRob 03-31-2012 06:56 PM

The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V
RandomRob, here. You know, this business with Mass Effect 3 has had me thinking about alot of things related to media, social politics, electronic validation, etc...

But mostly I'm envious. Envious of the consumer power on display! At a time when videogame publishers are getting record budgets and bending over backwards to please a pretty unique and eclectic fanbase, complaints about products are being heard and responded to in a way that I'm not sure has ever happened in this country. It's wonderful and awful. Wonderful that communication works, awful that storytelling is not being honored more.

The fact is no-one's rights have been violated by believing the hype machine that tells us our choices matter at the end of a game. Caveat Emptor. When have they NOT advertised this nonsense and in any case when have we cared?

It's a fact that the more endings you add to a game, the more you violate a story's integrity, and water down the player's involvement with their character.

(BTW- sequels suck. More on that later)

So ME3 had a down ending. To me, it was obvious from mission 1 of game 1. Eden Prime is destroyed. Eden Prime is this super important colony world that's decimated. The name Eden foreshadows biblical level disaster coming. Which it does, in the form of space locusts who will eat everything in the universe. One lone prophet must warn humanity, etc. Who thought this would end happily? You're on a spaceship with mercenaries and mad bombers and genocidal scientists and you're surprised it's not a happy ending?

If you didn't see the ending of Mass Effect 3 coming, all I can say is you should read more stories and see more classic films, because that's part of the agreement between audience and storyteller. As an audience, it's your DUTY to consume all kinds of fiction, so you can better pick up on the clues the storyteller is dropping all over the place. The more kinds of fiction you consume, the more kinds you can appreciate.

The storyteller's end of the agreement is to tell the best story they CAN. It's not part of the agreement for the storyteller to provide happy endings on demand, though. Good writing should speak to the human condition.

The ending of ME3 does. War sucks. Sacrifice sucks. Losing friends sucks. The Universe is going to be eaten by Dark Energy Monsters. Those are things that bear repeating in fiction, in conversation, wherever...

Frankly, I'm surprised no-one I've read has noticed the obvious parallel to the ending of Star Trek: Voyager. Mass Effect relays, Transwarp conduits... anyway, that's another article. I need to make a point.

Let's talk Star Wars.

I was 10 when Star Wars opened in theaters. Without going into an essay about how it changed geek culture forever, I'll simply say, it changed my imagination. It was an astonishingly ripe, fertile piece of cinema that fed my boyhood fantasies for years to come.

Then the Empire Strikes Back came out. I went to see it on a cold rainy afternoon by myself. When I exited the theater after it ended, I waited in the rain for the bus and felt betrayed. The way all the story tropes and scope of the first film got shoe-horned into this seriously boring father-son story just reduced the whole universe of the first film to it's most tedious elements. Worse, a hellacious cliffhanger that wouldn't resolve for another 3 years. I was 12.
3 years is forever when you're 12.

I felt really alone, too. Everybody LOVED the Empire Strikes Back. I couldn't even talk about it with anyone. And it didn't end. It wasn't until I played KOTOR years later that I felt like someone had understood those boyhood fantasies and indulged them. And that's a long, long time to wait for validation.

But as I get older I see it very clearly. What I loved about Star Wars was it's potential. That first viewing was burned into my brain, how it made me feel was burned into my heart. That's what I remembered later that I couldn't get back from the other films. How it made me feel.

I'd be willing to bet that alot of people who played the first Mass Effect felt the same thing. That the scope and intrigue of that universe in that first game made them feel something that the sequels didn't.

But the difference is you Mass Effect fans are NOT alone. You are, in fact, legion. And the game companies are listening.

But I worry that if Bioware bends to this fan judgment and lightens up the ending of ME3, it will set a TERRIBLE precedent. Not just for how games get made, but for writing, and the expectations put on writers. Which are already pretty brutal.

I'm sorry Mass Effect 3 has bummed so many people out. Look at it this way, at least you didn't have to ride home in the rain in 1980 and not have anyone to talk to for 20 years about how you didn't like the Empire Strikes Back.

There's that.

Tata 04-01-2012 03:54 AM

Re: The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V
Strange, I remember I was 6 years old when I watched the first three Star Wars and when the first one finished, I wanted to watch that again, even when Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were going. Eventually, as I became older, RotJ became my favorite one, because I liked how the whole film played out, well, with the Ewok battle as exception, that felt really unrealistic. I liked the space battle, the duel and how the film built up to it, how the manipulative Emperor forced Luke into attacking him, and what happened after the duel. I also really liked the first Star Wars, and then came Empire Strikes Back. I found it a bit boring as a child, but I began to appreciate that one too, when I was becoming older. Still, it's my least favorite from the 3 films, despite that, I like it a lot now, so I can't share what you feel.

Back to Mass Effect. This is what I think, and I know I'm not the only one; It's not a happy ending people want, but an ending that makes sense. The only reason why I'm afraid from an ending DLC is because it could give EA/BioWare another reason to muster more money from us. I know this sounds way much like a conspiracy, but what if they up that ending on purpose, to milk more money from the customer? Remember how much controversy did the Day 1 DLC made? Imagine how much could an ending DLC make with a 10$ tag on it. The last few years proved that BioWare isn't really in control with itself. It's being pushed by EA way too much, and BioWare is not an angel itself, not to mention EA. But if they would make a free ending DLC (Which I highly doubt.), I think they could hardly mess up the current ending more, IF time is given to the DLC.

Then again, there are 2 groups here, and both have right points. Remember when the Witcher 2 came out and people said the ending was disappointing? It had 16 ending. True, a lot of them didn't differ from each other. But then again, neither do the variations of the 3 endings Mass Effect 3 has. CD Projekt also makes a "DLC" kinda. They took their time with it, however, and I fear if they don't take their time with an ending DLC, it might suck even more than the current one.

Pedro 04-01-2012 04:28 AM

Re: The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 200734)

I'm sorry Mass Effect 3 has bummed so many people out. Look at it this way, at least you didn't have to ride home in the rain in 1980 and not have anyone to talk to for 20 years about how you didn't like the Empire Strikes Back.

There's that.

Ha ha, nice ending!

Lots of interesting points here, and I hope the conversation doesn't get bogged down in the specifics of ME3's ending - let's keep it general.

While I was playing the game, I obviously kept away from spoilers, though I was aware of the furore about the ending. By the level of heat generated, I assumed that the game wasn't finished, and that bioware had somehow put the real ending into some paid-for dlc. This made sense to me because some of the characters in the series had already been removed for day one dlc, the multiplayer had been added with some paid content etc. And of course nobody had complained about the previous game's incredibly awful ending, where you're attacked by a Terminator made out of human heads, so it couldn't be that type of issue.

So I was actually pleased that people were taking a stand against what I thought might be price-gouging. Then I finished the game and my opinion changed.

I liked the ending - it gave you a fairly hefty (in the context of save the universe sci fi) philosophical choice to make, and it hinted at a deeper subtext in which not all may be as it seems.

People may feel 'betrayed' by the ending (and Rob, at least you had the excuse that you were thirteen), but the world doesn't revolve solely around those people and I'm not happy to have them speaking for me.

The interesting question for me is that developers are happy to listen to fans on gameplay issues, not only bugs, but issues of balance, poor mechanics etc - and sometimes even fix them. Will the story or narrative issues now fall into this category, or will they remain sacrosanct as part of the developers' vision?

Pedro 04-05-2012 05:45 PM

Re: The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V
Well, the dangerous precedent has been set, I guess. It'll be interesting to see where we go from here.

I've been thinking about it a little, and I have to say I'm a bit sceptical about all this emotional investment we're hearing about. The game was a weird mix of soap and space opera, with lots of fetch quests and shooting mixed in. I can't quite believe that people are taking it so seriously.

Anyway, I also realised that I've never actually seen a game ending that I didn't like, so I probably shouldn't even be commenting. Games for me are generally always a bit too long, so I'm usually delighted to see an ending of any kind.

RandomRob 04-05-2012 08:08 PM

Re: The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V
I think the premium the fans are putting on emotional validation is kindof extreme, really. And I wonder if that in itself is a generational thing. My generation had to use imagination to involve ourselves with limited presentation. Does a newer generation expect everything to be perfect because the graphics are developing much quicker than everything else?

Again, I thought Mass Effect's story was a bit hokey from the get-go, but I did enjoy the character background bits, the universe felt fleshed out, even if it was a universe of hallway shooting galleries with ammo crates and chest high walls everywhere.

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