The Mass Effect 3 Controversy: What Went Wrong And Why It’s Not Entitlement

Last Friday, I posted my spoiler-free review of Mass Effect 3. By going spoiler-free, I didn’t discuss many of the more controversial moments of ME3 as that would involve spoiling most of the game to give any sort of context. While many gamer complaints about the game are written-off by larger gaming media outlets as “gamer entitlement” or gamers looking for a “happy ending,” many gamers have valid complaints about what was promised by BioWare and what they actually shipped in March.

After the jump, I take a look at some of the controversial moments in ME3 ahead of today’s EA press conference at E3.

SPOILER ALERT: In case you hadn’t guessed yet, this post contains many, many spoilers.

The Indoctrination Theory
If you haven’t heard of the Indoctrination Theory, you should probably consider yourself lucky. You could get lost for countless hours in Indoctrination Theory articles and videos like I did (though they are compelling countless hours). What it basically states is that everything that most people didn’t like or didn’t understand about the end of ME3 was actually a well-planned ending by BioWare that was filled with clues and symbolism to show that it wasn’t real but a dream.

The theory states that everything after Harbinger fails to vaporize Shepard is all a sort of dream or Reaper-induced hallucination. Shepard doesn’t actually get up and stumble his way to the top of the Citadel where he has one final meeting with Anderson and The Illusive Man. Instead, he’s fighting off one last attempt by the Reapers to indoctrinate him so that he doesn’t destroy them. The whole theory and the evidence behind it is extensively documented across the interweb. In fact, Julian Kluk of CleverNoob.com even created an 85 minute documentary which compiled all the evidence over the course of the game showing that the Reapers were attempting to indoctrinate Shepard.

If you don’t have 85 minutes to watch that video, I’ll give you the Coles Notes version: Shepard is clearly being indoctrinated because elements of his environment are taken directly from his/her memories like the dead bodies near the teleportation beam to the Citadel who appear to Kaiden & Ashley models from ME1, the appearance of the kid Shepard meets on Earth at the start of the game appearing in Shepard’s nightmares and as the star child / Catalyst AI, and dead body piles on the Citadel resembling the Collector ship. There are several plot holes in the finish that are completely inexplicable unless this is all a dream such as previously undiscovered rooms/engines in the Citadel, Anderson beating you to the control room and the mysterious sudden appearance of the Illusive Man. Your final choice determines whether or not you give into Reaper indoctrination. If you destroy the Reapers, you aren’t indoctrinated. If you go for the control or synthesis options, you give into the Reapers’ indoctrination attempts and all is lost for the galaxy.

There are two problems with the indoctrination theory. It pieces together what is essentially mostly circumstantial evidence and gives credit to BioWare for leaving it all there for us to find when we sift through everything very slowly. While it’s entirely possible for BioWare to have constructed the ending of the game out of familiar pieces from old games for the sake of the story, it’s equally possible for BioWare’s animator/design team to be rushed in the run up to release which forced them to recycle old models to get the game done on time. The more plausible explanation is that BioWare haphazardly through this all together and people were able to connect non-existent dots.

The other problem is that if BioWare chooses to run with the Indoctrination Theory in the Extended Cut DLC, they essentially admit to releasing a game without an actual ending. Per the theory, everything after Shepard gets hit by Harbinger’s super laser is a sort of dream. If that’s the case, he never actually reached the top of the Citadel and never activated the Crucible. Therefore, we’re still waiting for the game to actually end. Since BioWare just said they were adding some explanatory cut scenes to the game rather than redoing the ending, I don’t think that the indoctrination theory is going to be the “canon” ending.

While I don’t give much credence to the indoctrination theory, you have to admit that it would be probably the greatest plot twist in a video game ever. I’d hazard that this would be the best since Knights of the Old Republic. (Admit it, that one was a bit of a mindfuck.) Whether intended or not, BioWare has a great ending handed to them by the die-hard fans of the series. All they have to do is run with it and they leap back to the top of the developers food chain as the smartest group out there making games.

I Thought We Were Promised Unique Endings
Two months before the release of Mass Effect 3, BioWare executive producer Casey Hudson said the following in an interview with Game Informer:

“This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.

“It’s more like there are some really obvious things that are different and then lots and lots of smaller things, lots of things about who lives and who dies, civilizations that rose and fell, all the way down to individual characters. That becomes the state of where you left your galaxy. The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.”

I think we can definitively say that there are A, B and C endings. When you reach the top of the Citadel (Crucible, Catalyst, whatever), you’re presented with options to destroy, to control or for synthesis. You can go online and find videos of all seven possible endings. Really, there isn’t much different between those endings anyway. You could see red explosions, green explosions or blue explosions. Those blue and green explosions cause the Reapers to fly away while the red explosions cause the Reapers to fall over. If you’ve done really poorly, the red explosions will vaporize everything on Earth. I think I can definitely say how many endings there are and I wouldn’t say that there are a great variety to those endings.

To illustrate the point that BioWare basically recycled the endings with minor variations, here the aforementioned video which compiles six of the seven possible endings. The missing ending is the “Destroy Perfect” ending which has a short clip of Shepard taking a quick gasping breath at the very end. The differences between the endings are so minuscule that anybody that contends that the endings aren’t varied just refuses to listen to reason.

The only way your decisions from the first two games affect the endings is through the war assets you accumulate. Characters you keep alive over the two previous games can contribute about 20 military strength each. So that means that leaves 160 TMS up to your decisions. The rest of your decisions are trade offs. Saving the council nets out to roughly the same TMS as letting them die. Considering that you need an EMS of 4,000 for the best endings (and it isn’t too difficult to achieve that if you play multiplayer), your decisions over the first two games don’t appear to carry anywhere near the weight of ME3’s.

Suppose you want to defend Hudson with the notion that things changed between his January interview and the game’s release in March. How about we breakdown this ME3 marketing blurb (which is still up on the website):

Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.

I think I’ve covered what’s wrong with this statement in breaking down Hudson’s statement. I love BioWare and I love Mass Effect but when the Better Business Bureau says that you’re guilty of false advertisement with that statement, you’ve clearly not held up to your end of the bargain. While I don’t think that there should be thousands of different endings to the game to cover off the thousands of different decisions and the different combinations of decisions made, BioWare promised a variety of endings and delivered one ending that was painted in three different colours.

Did No One At BioWare Actually Play the Arrival DLC?
Regardless of your choice between red, green and blue and how many war assets you accumulated over the preceding 30 hours, one thing remains a constant in all endings: Every mass relay in the galaxy explodes. The only difference between the three choices is which colour the explosion is.

In the Arrival DLC, we saw that destroying a mass relay caused an explosion with the equivalent power to the creation of a supernova. That meant that Shepard managed to blow up a whole Batarian star system by crashing that asteroid into the relay. While the destruction of the mass relays doesn’t involve an asteroid impact this time, they still blow up with such a big explosion that you can see it from a galaxy-wide perspective. Based on the established physics of the universe, that means that Shepard just vaporized half the galaxy, including Earth and the Allied Fleet.

However, the ending implies that nothing actually got vaporized by the exploding mass relays. The question then becomes how, in the span of six months (per the game’s timeline), mass relays can go from exploding with solar system vaporizing force to exploding with enough force to damage nothing but put on a hell of a light show. It would’ve been so much easier if BioWare animated the mass relay shockwave and have that first relay sort of fizzle out. You get your light show without the destructive consequences. That would also go a long way to solving the next major issue with the ending.

Meet Your New (And Permanent) Neighbours
So with all the mass relays destroyed and the Reaper threat taken care of (be it through the use of red explosions, blue explosions or green explosions), that leaves one problem: Interstellar travel is accomplished through the use of the now destroyed mass relay network. Even though ships have developed faster-than-light travel, if anybody in the Allied Fleet wants to get home, they’ll have to saddle up for a decades-long trip. So everybody is stranded in Sol and huddled around Earth.

You can’t really get closure (let alone a happy ending) if a devastated Earth is playing host to millions upon millions of aliens who thought they’d be paying a short visit. Prior to the Reaper attack, Earth probably didn’t have much in the way of food and water to spare. After the Reaper occupation, the situation is much worse. It would be tough enough to feed the remaining human population. Add in the Asari, Salarians and Krogan and you definitely don’t have enough resources to keep everyone happy. At least the Turians and Quarians can fight amongst themselves over food since they can’t eat amino-acid based foods.

So now we have everyone stranded in the star cluster they were in when Shepard saved the galaxy by blowing up the only efficient interstellar travel system. Where’s the closure in that? Did BioWare just assume that we would happily go along with the fact that everyone’s stuck on Earth? It’s almost as mind-boggling a decision as the next thing that went horribly wrong with the ME3 ending.

Where Are You Going, Joker?
After sticking by your side through two previous galaxy-saving missions, including making several death-defying piloting maneuvers, Joker decided to turn tail and run for it in the final minutes of the final battle for the fate of all sentient life in the galaxy, taking the Normandy and its crew along with him. Yeah, that seems perfectly in character for Joker.

Somehow, completely inexplicably, the Normandy has managed to fly into the range of a ship-damaging shockwave from a mass relay. Since the Crucible’s shockwave didn’t eradicate everything in its path (unless you had the absolute worst ending possible), Joker is clearly running from the exploding mass relay shockwave. The part that doesn’t make sense is that the Normandy appears to be the only thing in the universe that can get damaged by the shockwave apart from the Citadel and mass relays seeing as the Reapers just sort of fall over or fly away depending on your choice.

All of Joker’s running for the hills also resulted in the Normandy crashing into a forest on an unidentified planet. Since he’s running from a mass relay explosion that damaged only him and not every ship in shockwave range, I’m assuming that it was an alien planet outside the Sol system. Joker very well could have crashed in Thailand. (There you go, BioWare. I just gave you a way to get yourself out of this particular mess.) Since there aren’t any planets in our solar system apart from Earth that have a breathable atmosphere or plant life, Joker ended up a long way away from where he started. With the mass relay network out of commission, it doesn’t look too promising that the Normandy will be found any time soon.

It’s clear that BioWare were setting up some sort of plausible way for all aboard the Normandy to be killed if you didn’t have sufficient war assets. Rather than cause the Crucible to back fire and destroy everything with an element zero core to explode, or some such like that, BioWare crafted an ending that makes no sense in any context. But they did get a final romantic (or “Adam and Eve” as some termed it) moment between Joker and EDI in the synthesis ending. I guess that’s what they were aiming for in the first place. It’s not like any one of the many people manning the Normandy would notice Earth getting farther and farther away in the rear view mirror and not do anything about it, right?

Last I Checked, You Should Have Been Vaporized
It’s bad enough that Joker has managed to get the Normandy stranded on an alien planet (assuming that I wasn’t right about them getting stuck in Thailand) but when he checks out the surroundings, who comes out with him but other members of Shepard’s squad. Last I checked, I gave everyone a rousing speech to inspire them to save the galaxy from the Reapers. They landed on Earth in a shuttle to serve as part of the Hammer ground force while Joker worked with the Sword fleet above Earth.

Anyway, on the aforementioned planet, EDI steps out of the Normandy with Joker if you pick the synthesis or control options at the end shortly followed by another squadmate. If you picked destroy, two squadmates leave the ship with Joker. Per my perusal of the interweb, the random squadmates who step outside with Joker are the two characters on the Normandy who your Shepard has the highest relationship score with. (I’m guessing that metric stretches over all three games because one of my Shepards hooked up with Ashley in ME1 and had a falling out over the whole Cerberus thing which ended the relationship quickly but she was out of the ship right after Joker.)

If the folks who should’ve been on Earth stepping out of a crashed, Alliance/Shepard-deserting Normandy wasn’t bad enough, the fact that people who were in your final squad stepped off the Normandy makes things weirder. It’s such a common occurrence that I’ve seen a couple reports suggest that the two folks that get off the ship with Joker are your final two squadmates. That makes no sense as they should’ve been blasted by Harbinger’s death ray too. There’s no logical reason why they should’ve been vaporized only to end up on the Normandy. The plausible explanations are: 1) They turned tail and abandoned Shepard on the run to the Citadel transport beam; or 2) The indoctrination theory is true and seeing Joker and company stop off this ship is part of the dream (which I still doubt BioWare will run with but it would make explaining everything easier). I’m fairly certain that BioWare wouldn’t run with the first explanation either assuming that this video is in fact actual cut content from ME3:

(If that gets reinserted into the game as part of the Extended Cut, I’m bringing Vega with me on my next run down the hill. Garrus owes me drinks.)

The reinsertion of this scene could actually solve part of the Indoctrination Theory. One of the pieces of evidence of the theory is that Shepard is closer to the conduit when he wakes up from Harbinger’s death ray than when he got hit. It could be a trick of the camera but it almost appears as though the laser is tracking back towards Shepard. The laser hitting Shepard from behind and propelling him forward toward the conduit would make for a plausible explanation for Shepard getting closer to the conduit.

I don’t see this complaint as a case of “gamer entitlement” or other nitpickiness. It’s a massive missing link in the ending. While a lot of what happens over the last fifteen minutes of the game doesn’t work when you pull it apart, having someone who just charged down the hill with you step off the Normandy will wrinkle your brain immediately.

Day One DLC
Lost in all the uproar over the ending was a now comparatively minor controversy over the From Ashes DLC. This was the DLC that was released with the game for the low price of $10. With it, you got a new character (Javik), a recruitment mission (about 30 minutes long, if that), a new assault rifle and new outfits for each squad member (though not all add new bonuses). To top it off, the DLC content was shipped on the game disc rather than actually being downloadable content. BioWare claims the From Ashes DLC was produced in the downtime between the principal development work and release but that downtime must have been months because discs and packaging are made well in advance of the actual release.

This isn’t the first Mass Effect game with DLC released on the first day. For example, Zaeed was a DLC character in ME2 that was released on the first day. Unlike Javik, Zaeed, his loyalty mission and a new heavy weapon were all free. About two-and-a-half months after ME2’s release, Kasumi Goto was made available for $7 along with a loyalty mission, a new outfit for Shepard and a new submachine gun. The biggest difference between Javik and your ME2 friends is the level of interaction with the crew. Javik will wander the ship and have full conversations with other members of your crew. This would imply that all work done on Javik was done well in advance of release seeing as he acts like every other member of the Normandy crew. In ME2, Shepard is the only one who really interacts with Zaeed and Kasumi. The only other characters who acknowledge the two by name are Joker and Chambers who only have one line about each character. That would imply that both Zaeed and Kasumi were dreamt up later in development. Either BioWare managed to round all the voice actors up to add lines for the Javik DLC (which they are doing for EC but that’s also attempting to mitigate a PR nightmare) or this was something BioWare had in the script from day one of recording.

While I wouldn’t begrudge a good Canadian company (owned by the most evil American corporation) an opportunity to make money, there’s a difference between paying for add-on content, like Kasumi, and taking a portion of the game and locking it out until you pay for it to be unlocked, like Javik. All the evidence points to the From Ashes DLC being a cash grab rather than a legitimate post-development addition. Indoctrination Theory or not, for my money, all $60 $70 of it, the From Ashes DLC was a far greater annoyance than the ending.

We’ve Seen Tali’s Face Before But Didn’t Realize It
One of the dangers of having a passionate fan base is that you’re not going to make everyone happy with every decision you make. (Ironically, that was a recurring theme of ME3.) In an interview with CVG from about eight months before ME3’s release, lead artist Derek Watts had this to say about designing Tali for the game:

We changed Tali – that was tough because people were very passionate about her. A lot of people want to have her face revealed and obviously people are going to be pissed off either way.

Like “I thought she was going to look beautiful!” or “I thought she was going to be the most hideous thing ever!” So we’ve had a lot of debate over Tali’s face, but that’s the one we kind of dread a lot. We’re always “well, let’s talk about something else for a while!” That’s something we’re going to have to decide.

So the artists at BioWare were working on Tali’s face for at least eight months prior to the game’s release. Shepard gets to see Tali’s face on Rannoch (assuming she doesn’t blow her brains out over you allowing the Geth to wipeout the entire Quarian race). You, the player, get to see a picture of Tali’s face if you’re romancing her. Unfortunately for fans anticipating this moment where the face of the Quarian species is revealed, what you get is quite literally a stock image from Getty Images with about 30 minutes worth of Photoshop work to add a couple of stray hairs, lens flare and a couple of cybernetic-ish lines.

When you cover a character up for two games and reveal her face at the end of the trilogy, there is definitely a build-up of expectations. While artists are entitled to their vision, there is a difference between an artistic vision and laziness. Artistic vision is creating an alien race who are forced to live in environmental suits, have three fingers on each hand, two toes on each foot and have a unique history which leave them as galactic nomads and outcasts. Laziness is making the face of said unique alien species a human face. Laziness is not altering the stock photo so it looks unique to the universe as opposed to a random image of a woman wearing Shepard’s zip hoody. In the context of the universe, Tali wearing Shepard’s hoody while on a random forested planet (probably Rannoch but I don’t remember coming across plant life like that while on the surface) isn’t likely to have occurred without killing her.

So is it entitlement to be upset with the end result of BioWare revealing Tali’s face? Well, BioWare didn’t have to do it. I think that might have actually been a smarter decision from a creative point of view. Leaving it to fans to speculate/create and taking the best design for the comics and future games would likely have gone over better. It’s entitlement to just be upset that BioWare chose to reveal Tali’s face. It was a logical stage to the Shepard/Tali romance. It’s not entitlement to be upset that BioWare put no effort into creating Tali’s face. Considering the effort that was likely put into creating all the other races in the galaxy, I’m not sure how you could call it anything but lazy to make Quarians humans with fewer fingers (which were blacked out in the Tali photo in-game so poorly that it doesn’t even look like a Quarian hand).

What’s Udina Doing In Anderson’s Chair?
I know that this isn’t really an oversight in the strict canon of the Mass Effect universe (surprisingly, a preferred canon does seem to exist in Mass Effect) but I think it’s worth mentioning. When I last left the Citadel in ME2, Anderson was the human councillor. When things start-up in ME3, Anderson is no longer on the Citadel Council but is back in the Alliance Navy while Udina is now the Councillor. I thought my decisions mattered.

It turns out that wasn’t a completely unannounced change in position that was wedged in there to make the Cerberus invasion storyline make any sense. Upon checking my Codex, it noted that Anderson got sick of the Council’s political bullshit (I’m paraphrasing) so he quit which led to the appointment of Udina. If you’ve read the Mass Effect novels, it turns out that Shepard suggested Udina for the post all along, regardless of what you think that Shepard actually would have done in a perfect universe or what he did in your universe.

I somehow doubt that BioWare knew all along that they would make Udina’s actions central to the plot of a mission down the road. When one of the writers came up with the idea of Udina making a power play for control of the Council, nobody seemed to think about how to explain this to anyone who chose Anderson as the human councillor (apart from a sentence in the codex). When Shepard first meets Anderson on Earth, it’s not too hard to add a couple of lines asking why Anderson is back with Alliance and Anderson answering that he can best deal with the Reaper threat if he’s back on Earth. That would have been fairly easy and it would tie up a nagging plot hole.

People Really Hate Multiplayer
Well, I can’t write an article that is in part about alleged gamer entitlement and not mention something that does skew towards entitlement. After the cluster(mess) that was the launch of Diablo 3, BioWare might have lucked into a great anti-piracy tactic. Rather than make ME3 always online like Diablo 3 ended up being (after they got their server issues sorted), BioWare only required you to be online for activation and multiplayer.

Opinions on multiplayer have been mixed. Some people love it and find it addictive. Others find it dull, repetitive and would rather not have to play it. I think it’s good when you’ve got a fun character class (basically, one with biotics) and decent team that can work together rather than play every man for himself (I’m looking at you, Krogan and Battlefield 3 players). If you play with a bunch of folks only concerned about increasing their N7 ranking, it gets aggravating quickly.

So the reason why multiplayer is an anti-piracy measure is because of the Galactic Readiness rating. You’ve probably realized now that you need to play the multiplayer or one of the mobile games to increase Galactic Readiness above 50%. The highest war asset amount I’ve read being accumulated was about 6,400. At the minimum readiness, that gives you an EMS of 3,200 which is too low to get the best endings. According to the Mass Effect wiki, the maximum possible TMS is 7,700 which comes out to an EMS of 3,850 which is still too low for the best endings. In other words, if you have a pirated version of the game, you can’t go online (or link to the mobile games) which prevents you from getting the best endings. I’d say that’s a pretty good trick that BioWare worked into the game.

What BioWare Is Doing And What Can They Do?
Since the last paragraph was about multiplayer, let’s start there. BioWare launched both the Resurgence and Rebellion multiplayer DLC packs for free. Each included six new characters, three new weapons, two new maps and one new race. (I won’t get into the whole micro-transactions to expedite obtaining the new items thing because that’s probably going to get more common before it disappears.)

As for the Extended Cut DLC, which is supposed to give “more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player,” early reports indicate that we’ll be getting some new content of some sort. G4 reports that Lance Henriksen (Admiral Hackett), Tricia Helfer (EDI) and Raphael Sbarge (Kaiden Alenko) are all back doing voice-over work for Extended Cut. According to her Twitter feed, Kimberly Brooks (Ashley Williams) will also be back since you might have killed Alenko five or so years ago.  A vague Facebook post by Brandon Keener (Garrus) would indicate he’s back for EC as well. Oddly, there hasn’t been any word if Mark Meer or Jennifer Hale have recorded any new lines for the Extended Cut. Given that the rest of your squad is coming back, there’s also a troubling lack of information about Ali Hillis (Liara), Ash Sroka (Tali), Seth Green (Joker), Freddy Prinze Jr. (Vega) and Ike Amadi (Javik).

[UPDATE: An interview with Mark Meer confirms that he recorded additional dialogue for Extended Cut. If Meer is back for EC, Jennifer Hale is all but officially confirmed to return as well.]

Given the returning voice cast, we can be fairly confident that BioWare won’t just be adding on some pre-rendered cinematics to the end of the game after what has already been produced and we’ll get something voiced as opposed to the everyone’s alive scene at the end of Mass Effect. I’m guessing the inclusion of Hackett indicates either a Joker court martial or a Shepard memorial service. Given who is in the confirmed cast, I’m thinking a memorial service intermixed with scenes of the crew and the rest of the galaxy getting back to their lives is the likely scenario here. If you have the perfect (Shepard’s alive) ending, presumably there would be some sort of medal ceremony (a shot at the internet if BioWare goes with it) intermixed with the afore suggested story wrap-up scenes or other visit by Hackett and company with an injured Shepard.

We can’t just assume that a medal ceremony or memorial service is all BioWare is going to give us (assuming that I’m right about what they’re giving us). There are still nagging questions about why half the galaxy wasn’t vaporized by exploding mass relays, what the stranded fleets are going to do, why Joker abandoned Shepard and the Alliance and how your squad ended up on the ship.

Some of the solutions are more simple than others. Having the mass relays grind to a halt has them stop working without vaporizing most inhabited solar systems and makes it conceivable for them to get running again so the fleets can get home. After all, Mass Effect’s First Contact War was caused by humans activating dormant mass relays.

Answering other major plot holes like turncoat Joker and magically teleporting squadmates might be a bit more difficult to solve if BioWare is only planning on giving more context to the ending. The best solution would be to just write those problems out of the ending and solve those plot holes by making them non-existent. Alternatively, BioWare could borrow my suggestion of a crash landing in Thailand. Maybe replace your squadmates with other folks from the ship (Traynor, Chakwas/Michel, Adams, Donnelly, Daniels). Of all the problems that BioWare caused with the original ending, solving Normandy related issues will be the most troublesome. Given that we’re going to hear from EDI, Garrus and Alenko/Williams, it’s more than likely the surviving crew of the Normandy will get rescued. It would appear that BioWare think they have solved this problem. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not sold on BioWare thinking they solved a problem they created by not thinking in the first place.

[UPDATE: Who caused the problem with the ending? According to ME writer Patrick Weekes, producer Casey Hudson was the sole person involved in writing and approving the ending of the game. Weekes said that all other writers were locked out of the writing process for the ending. Blame for the ending starts and ends with Hudson.]

There is one thing I’m fairly confident that BioWare will do today. Today’s EA E3 press conference will include an update on Extended Cut. We’ll probably get a release date, an update on the returning cast and some vague details about what will actually be in the DLC. Casey Hudson or other BioWare exec will probably reveal a few more clues in interviews with journalists. If BioWare is particularly daring, they may unveil or tease a new piece of paid DLC which will have to be priced at less than $10 so as not to cause an uproar. Obviously it could be either a new mission or character. If there is any gameplay added to EC (unlikely but not outside the realm of possibilities), I would think we’ll get a second DLC character announced. Seeing as the life support room is unoccupied, there is still space aboard the Normandy to house a second DLC character so we’re due for one eventually. Again, that’s all specualtion but common sense says that BioWare does something to placate fans at E3.

Why Complaining About Mass Effect 3 Isn’t Entitlement
In January 2012, the fourth Mass Effect novel, Deception, was released. The book caused an immediate controversy due to the number of massive errors it contained. Readers documented approximately 80 errors in Deception. BioWare and publisher Del Rey Books promised that errors would be corrected in future printing of the novel.

Less than two months later, the third Mass Effect game was released. The game caused an immediate controversy due to the number of errors and inexplicable moments in the ending. Gamers and game writers documented the numerous errors and other head scratching moments in ME3. Some members of the press also vilified gamers who wanted the errors in the ending corrected by referring to these gamers as “entitled.” In the end, BioWare promised to clarify the ending by adding an unspecified amount of explanatory content in the Extended Cut DLC.

Mass Effect fans and gamers aren’t universally demanding that BioWare give them a happy ending where Shepard and Garrus retire to a beach where they drink mai tais (or the dextro equivalent) or Shepard builds a house for Tali on Rannoch. What’s being demanded by most fans is an ending that makes sense in the context of the universe established by BioWare. What gamers want is what BioWare promised in the run up to the release of the game.

Is it gamer entitlement to want the ending that you dreamed of prior to playing the game? Yes. Is it entitlement to want a happy ending regardless of how you played the game? Yes. Is it gamer entitlement to want an ending that doesn’t have any plot holes that can’t be explained? No. Is it gamer entitlement to want an ending that is actually possible in the context of the universe that the writers established? No. And is it gamer entitlement to want what you were promised by BioWare? Absolutely not.

The basis behind the Retake Mass Effect campaign and the creation of the Indoctrination Theory isn’t some desire for a happy ending. Players want an ending of some sort. Leaving the allied fleet stranded in orbit around Earth with the Normandy crew stranded in another solar system isn’t an ending. Telling people to buy more DLCs isn’t an ending. Leaving more questions unanswered at the end of the game than the start isn’t an ending nor does it conclude the story arc, as Casey Hudson phrased it. It’s only fair that the gaming public get what they were promised by BioWare and see an actual conclusion to this story.

Related:
Video Game Review: Mass Effect (or When Hard Drives Stop Dead)
Video Game Review: Mass Effect 2 (or ME2: Modern Warfare)
Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3 (or This Is It, Isn’t It)
Mass Effect 3 Tipster Leaks New Multiplayer and Extended Cut DLC Info

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25 thoughts on “The Mass Effect 3 Controversy: What Went Wrong And Why It’s Not Entitlement

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  2. The players who weren’t happy with the ending of the game have been quite effective in voicing their displeasure. A ‘Retake Mass Effect 3’ Facebook page has amassed over 50,000 supporters, and an associated Twitter account has over 5,000 followers.

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  3. Problem here is that people wanted Bioware to spoon feed them an explanation and all the answers to the ending. To have Bioware fill in the plot holes themselves, because gamers don’t want to use their imaginations.

    Here’s the thing. There are no plot holes IF you do not take the ending at face value. If you do not take the ending literally. If you do take the ending literally, it’s a mess. The ending is non-literal. Many things such as characters appearing out of nowhere or acting out of context as some have claimed (Shepard just accepts Reaper kid’s logic) is an example of classic dream material. This scene where Shepard rolls over and just “yes mans” the Catalyst can be explained by something going back to Mass Effect 1.

    The other thing is that it is not a plot hole if it can be solved using information in the game (or previous games) or by the player using simple logic. This is sci-fi, so people might have to think for themselves and use their imaginations a bit–a staple of the sci-fi genre.

    A lot of people playing this game don’t want to do that, so they clearly aren’t the target audience for this game. They pretty much wanted a LOTR Return of the King style ending, least in terms of closure.

    Mass Effect is not fantasy. It’s sci-fi. Not a space opera like Star Wars, but closer to Star Trek. It’s “talky and techie” as one guy said.

    Bottom line, they wanted an ending that people could talk about. To have an ending which spells out everything and fills in all the details goes against the kind of story they were trying to tell.

    It’s a mind-screw type ending with a jigsaw puzzle plot (TV Tropes), with a Master of Illusion (Harbinger posing as the Catalyst, aka the ghostly boy who died on Earth, and not the Reaper God he claims to be) as the trickster. Find all the pieces to the puzzle and you will understand what the ending is all about. Miss some of the pieces, and the ending won’t make sense.

    They said before the game launched, you will be gathering clues to solve a puzzle. The ending is that puzzle, and the pieces are scattered throughout the trilogy for you to find.

    It’s up to you the player to decide what the ending is, not Bioware. Like I said, this is sci-fi, so people need to think for themselves or use their imagination a bit. I know, some people say “I paid $60 I don’t have to use my imagination”. Well then I’d hate to say it, this game isn’t for them.

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