There’s been a lot of discussion and debate about the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, so I thought I’d share my perspective with you here. I’ll avoid outright spoilers, but I’d still recommend finishing the game and experiencing it for yourself before reading this.
Casey, good. I'm glad you could finally join us.
For the last eight years, Mass Effect has been a labor of love for our team; love for the characters we’ve created, for the medium of video games, and for the fans that have supported us. For us and for you, Mass Effect 3 had to live up to a lot of expectations, not only for a great gaming experience, but for a resolution to the countless storylines and decisions you’ve made as a player since the journey began in 2007. So we designed Mass Effect 3 to be a series of endings to key plots and storylines, each culminating in scenes that show you the consequences of your actions. You then carry the knowledge of these consequences with you as you complete the final moments of your journey.
And to an extent, I would say that this plan was successful. The vast majority of the overarching storylines (the genophage, the migrant fleet, etc.) were dealt with over the course of Mass Effect 3 in a way that was beautiful and satisfying. If the ending had been better, and had offered just a little bit of extra closure (in the form of a DA:O epilogue slideshow), your plan may have worked without a hitch.
We always intended that the scale of the conflict and the underlying theme of sacrifice would lead to a bittersweet ending—to do otherwise would betray the agonizing decisions Shepard had to make along the way.
As many of your fans have stated, we agree with this goal. Sacrifice has been a huge element of the Mass Effect franchise, and none of us wanted a perfect ending with rainbows and butterflies. Almost everyone walked into that final mission expecting sacrifice. Most of us didn't expect Shepard's survival to be an option at all.
In fact, as many of your fans have made perfectly clear in the feedback thread you started (you have been reading that, right?), most of our favorite moments are instances of meaningful, satisfying sacrifice. Mordin. Thane. Legion.
Still, we wanted to give players the chance to experience an inspiring and uplifting ending; in a story where you face a hopeless struggle for basic survival, we see the final moments and imagery as offering victory and hope in the context of sacrifice and reflection.
Unfortunately, this is where you and your team began to fail. "Victory and hope" are nowhere to be found in the current ending, unless interpreted through the rose-tinted goggles of the indoctrination theory, in which case one of the three ending options currently in the game can be seen as a partial victory with a little bit of hope.
What you have mistaken for poignance and heroic sacrifice comes across as trite, cliche, amateur writing, disconnected from the entire franchise in theme, scope, and credibility. I am not a writer, an artist, or some brilliant connoisseur of literature - I am only a humble paying customer. But what I saw in the final five minutes of this 5-year-long experience has essentially convinced me that the galaxy I thought I loved so much never existed at all. That it was all a cruel joke, a lesson in nihilism and meaninglessness: an excuse for some writer to make a "deep" philosophical statement at the expense of alienating and disappointing the millions who supported him and the world we thought he created.
There is no sense of victory here. There is no sense of hope. The only positive feeling I walked away from this ending with was "at least the next cycle of evolution isn't as screwed as we are." Meanwhile, the squadmates I had grown to love are either dead or on the path to extinction. The galactic civilization I had grown to love is in a technological apocalypse not likely to be broken any time in the foreseeable future. The victories I earned over the course of the game - curing the genophage, uniting the quarians and geth, teaching a Prothean the power of a unified alliance - are all invalidated by either extinction or synthesis.
There is no hope here, and we were given no platform for reflection. Instead, we got a hue-shifted cinematic and a 30-second recital from Buzz. (I'm sure that must look awesome on your resume, by the way.) Now, we're left to imagine for ourselves all of the reasons our galaxy is screwed.
We've had some incredibly positive reactions to Mass Effect 3, from the New York Times declaring it “a gripping, coherent triumph”, to Penny Arcade calling it “an amazing accomplishment”, to emails and tweets from players who have given us the most profound words of appreciation we've ever received.
I'm sure you're very proud.
But we also recognize that some of our most passionate fans needed more closure, more answers, and more time to say goodbye to their stories—and these comments are equally valid. Player feedback such as this has always been an essential ingredient in the development of the series.
First of all, thanks for corralling us into a minority. That's always appreciated.
Closure is the smaller issue at hand, here. Please don't misinterpret that as "it's a small issue," because that's patently false.
I literally cannot even tell you which of my squadmates are dead and alive. I'm not even sure if Shepard is dead or alive. To the best of my knowledge, the destruction of the relays caused a supernova-scaled extinction event in every known star system in the galaxy. And if this isn't true, half of the galactic races will go extinct because there is no support for dextro life in the Sol system, and the other half will be eaten by the krogans as earth's post-apocalyptic resources dwindle, then they'll go extinct because all of their women are back on Tuchanka.
Or maybe my favorite color is green, and the entire galaxy was magically transformed into husks. Because clearly, the best way to avoid being turned into a husk by the Reapers is to willfully be turned into a husk by the Reapers. And don't get me started on how this completely invalidates the entire genophage problem.
So yes. You could say closure is an issue. But I digress.
This... star child. If he was not an attempt by Harbinger to indoctrinate Shepard, then I genuinely want to know where I can buy whatever your writers were smoking. Thanks to the Final Hours app, we know indoctrination was originally part of the plan. What happened? Why can't you just come out and tell us that you ran out of time, that you need a few more months to make things right?
I just. I'm disappointed, and thanks to the rest of this amazing community, you've seen the exact reasons I'm disappointed a couple hundred times in the past twenty four hours. (Which, looking back, is about the only positive experience I've had with Mass Effect since the ending.)
The point I'm trying to make is that "some of your most passionate fans" aren't just looking for catharsis. We're looking for the real
story. How was this really supposed to end? We paid for the story we were promised: one that would leave us satisfied, with all of our questions answered, where we weren't simply picking A, B, or C. You promised that, mere weeks ago. You do remember that, right?
I've been let down before, but never betrayed like this. I hope you're ashamed.
I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished, from the first art concepts for the Mass Effect universe to the final moments of Mass Effect 3. But we didn't do it on our own. Over the course of the series, Mass Effect has been a shared experience between the development team and our fans—not just a shared experience in playing the games, but in designing and developing them. An outpouring of love for Garrus and Tali led to their inclusion as love interests in Mass Effect 2. A request for deeper RPG systems led to key design changes in Mass Effect 3. Your feedback has always mattered. Mass Effect is a collaboration between developers and players, and we continue to listen.
Apparently, you should have consulted with us a little earlier on this ending.
I am proud of what your team did in ME1, ME2, and the first 99% of ME3. Playing those games was some of the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. All it took was one giant mistake to not only leave a sour taste in my mouth, but to actually ripple back in time and invalidate all of the wonderful things I enjoyed about ME1 and ME2.
You were so close. This was supposed to be the big one. Where did it go wrong?
So where do we go from here? Throughout the next year, we will support Mass Effect 3 by working on new content. And we’ll keep listening, because your insights and constructive feedback will help determine what that content should be. This is not the last you’ll hear of Commander Shepard.
Your words are hollow and meaningless until they are backed by actions. You've already broken promises, and you have lost my trust, my business, and my recommendation to friends and coworkers. I'm as sorry as you are. I can only hope this isn't doublespeak for a meaningless content pack where we can exercise even more futility in the face of a hopeless galaxy. If the ending isn't fixed, there is absolutely no motivation to participate in this universe any more.
We look forward to your continued support and involvement as we work together to shape the remaining experiences in the story of the Mass Effect trilogy.
Thanks for taking this journey with us.
I look forward to seeing your solutions, instead of your damage control.
Edited by bwFex, 17 March 2012 - 02:58 AM.