Saturday, June 16, 2012

"An End Once And For All" My Thoughts On Bioware And A Message

Okay, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who follows my twitter account that I absolutely hated the ending to Mass Effect 3. Over the course of my short life, this is by far the biggest betrayal I have ever faced. A betrayal that left me hollow emotionally and grief stricken for months. I literally went through all the stages of grief over what is basically just a video game. However, it's clearly not just a video game to me. We all have that passion for something that is seemingly trivial if you look at it from an objective point of view be it books, movies, video games, or marriage. What matters (and what I will always respect regardless of how trivial anyone's passion may appear to be) is that you were capable of having a strong emotional reaction to that thing you're passionate about.

For me this was Mass Effect.

My friendships were practically based around this series. Friendships forged in the fires of galactic war and the passion for the epic story Bioware was presenting to us. Which makes what happened to Mass Effect 3 all the more painful because it also put me at odds with the best of my friends. That is how powerful this game is. Like Thor's hammer coming down on Captain America's shield the ending to Mass Effect 3 resulted in devastation and left those in its wake dazed and confused. We (the fans) wanted to know what happened.

Of course no one really knows what happened apart from Bioware themselves, but they will probably never tell us. This is probably the most irritating part of what happened between the loyal fans and Bioware: the lack of communication. Be it corporate PR strategies, embarrassment, or because they really do stand by their game and its horrendous ending they aren't willing to explain the thought processes behind the ending.. Regardless, there are many people, myself included, who would love to have been a fly on the wall at the Bioware offices during the production of the game. Just to see where things went wrong.

The resulting fan rage doesn't help anyone, of course, but what else can us fans do? This really is the first time I've ever really had a true episode of nerd-rage, something I thought myself above, and it has both blinded me and opened my eyes to many things. In the end, I am really no better for what happened. I know that it may sound melodramatic to say that Mass Effect 3 emotionally scarred me for life, but that is the honest and simple truth.

To elaborate, you must understand that this is a game I, and many other people, poured my money, love, and passion into. Think of the Mass Effect series as a house that is being built, that you and others are building together because you truly desire this house to be built and you want to see the final product. The house gets built, and the more of it that is completed the more beautiful you realize it is.Then imagine that, on the final day where the last shingle is being placed onto the roof, the primary group of people who have helped build this house, fund its construction, and supervised everything decided to take a bulldozer to it at the last minute without telling you. How would you feel? Betrayed? I'd go with betrayed.

Now sure, you yourself didn't fund this project and the ones who did do have a right to do what they please with the house you're building but that doesn't take away the sting of realizing the effort you put into this house has been for nothing. Surely you must feel like you've wasted your time building this house. I know it's just a metaphor but it's the only way I can clarify my feelings about what Bioware did.

I can't argue with Bioware's choice to go this route because, ultimately, its their game. They wrote it, programmed it, and shipped it for us to enjoy. I can respect that fact, much to my chagrin. That doesn't mean we didn't have a part to play in this series though. After all, any franchise is only as great as its fanbase and Mass Effect and Bioware had one heck of a fanbase. This is thanks to both their imaginative and creative games as well as their unique relationship with fans. You don't see this level of communication between a developer and its fans, and you probably never will ever again. So why is it that this aspect has changed all of a sudden?

It'd be too easy to blame EA. Far too easy.

But blame doesn't change the fact that what happened in Mass Effect 3 can never be undone. It is, as a certain Time Lord would put it, a fixed point in time. It's now set in stone. I know there are many people out there who really do hope that the Extended Cut DLC will undo everything (and if they feel like it does then that's even better) but take into consideration the fact that, had this ending not received the negative feedback that it did even by a fraction, does anyone really think Bioware would be putting in the effort and resources to create this extended cut?

Of course I base this on the assumption that no one at Bioware was expecting this ending to be met with this much hostility. Which seems to be a fair assumption otherwise we would be expecting an extended cut to have been released much sooner. Top off the fact that if this had been pre-planned from the get-go it wouldn't just be extra cinematics but actual gameplay.

Again, I don't know what went on in Bioware, I'm merely going off my best possible assumptions. Needless to say, it's hard not to see this Extended Cut as being the PR department's saving throw against the negative criticism the ending has been faced with.

I know I am coming off as being negative but that's the point. Because the truth hurts, and it can come off as being negative. No one likes to hear the truth and the truth is this: People aren't stupid and the fans of these games proved that by pointing out the glaring flaws in this game's ending, flaws that the creators somehow managed to overlook. We're smart enough to see through the bullshit. Just look at the numerous reactions to the statement Bioware made when they announced the Extended Cut. And yes there are those who do see hope in this Extended Cut as well, but for this fan simply clarifying things isn't going to help.

At this point, the only thing that could fix things between me personally and Bioware is a genuine apology and an explanation as to how they managed to screw this up. But I'm not going to get that and I accept that. The next best thing would be for the ending to be undone, but as I stated before, what's happened has happened and cannot be undone. Which is why I have chosen to never pick up another Bioware product for as long as I live.

Bioware, if you are reading this, this is my message to you stating that you have forever lost me as a customer. You have betrayed my trust in you as a competent developer of quality products and I will never do business with you ever again. It's as simple as that. I will say that our business together has been great over the years, and I genuinely regret this decision considering our past relationship. However, this betrayal of trust cannot be forgotten nor can it be undone. It has been nice doing business with you but we must now part ways.

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