Bioware Responds to the Fans.
Co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka emerged today from whatever bunker the Bioware team have locked themselves in to respond to the growing furor around the endings of Mass Effect 3. So far fans have had only a few scraps from the Bioware staff to contemplate including the empty response of executive producer Casey Hudson and some rather rather cryptic Twitter messages from other staffers. Now they have some actual meat to digest.
I personally believe Mass Effect 3 is the best work we’ve yet created. So, it’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations.
It’s been just over two weeks since the game was released to critical acclaim, something Muzyka makes a point of noting further down in his response, but during that time it’s also seen a lot of things go wrong. The press including noted outlets like the Beeb, CNN and even Forbes have picked up on the backlash Bioware have received over the endings. Worse still the price has dropped across retailers, arguably a disaster for such a new game, and Amazon have begun offering refunds to opened copies. Of course despite all this, Muzyka subtly reiterates throughout that its only the more dedicated section of the fan base that have been making all the noise:
…even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us.
There are a number of theories and false hopes flying around the web that have no doubt been dashed by Bioware’s new response, most notably something entitled Indoctrination theory. You’ve got to love RPG fans, they’re a creative bunch. Certainly more so than whoever wrote the ending section. But I have to disagree it’s just the core faithful. I’ve seen enough goddamn ME3 ending memes to last a lifetime and the ever-growing range of YouTube videos damning the games conclusion is quite staggering.
Undoubtedly a lot of what Muzyka says doesn’t really explain Bioware’s position. Unlike the game where choices are supposed to be made he seems intent on not picking between admitting fault and holding ground:
Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.
The only problem that he accepts is that some people didn’t like it, (guess he forget about all the broken promises and downright misleading remarks made over the game), which he further emphasises when he plays the art card:
I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team. The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3’s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.
So you see there’s no real admission of fault in any capacity, they believe it boils down to an artistic disagreement between the fans and themselves. They see the main problem for players as an issue of “closure” because of the ambiguous way the game ends. While they do suggest here, and throughout, that the feedback fans give matters, they also don’t give a clear answer on what form that’ll take. The statement above shows a company who aware of an issue but don’t feel like they should need to address it in the first place. The last sentence is essentially the old adage of having your cake and eating it.
The most important part of the whole statement is a continuation of this duality:
Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received.
They are throwing a carrot to the fans while they sit and try to solve an unanswerable question.
Yes this is a win for the Retake campaign but I’m not sure how Bioware plan to fix the situation with their current mindset. At any rate they’ve bought themselves time until April and the PAX event but at some point they will have to resolve this by dispensing with their “artistic integrity” (that phrase can cover all manner of sins).
Link to Bioware statement here.
On a side note:
I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Fallout 3 and the consequent ending “change” fans elicited from Bethesda. While there are similarities, Bethesda really didn’t change anything. They simply allowed you to keep playing the game. Whether you enter the radiation chamber at the end or let your friendly monster do it, you still black out and the story remains the same. Then again maybe i’m missing the point. They still made a change to allow you to continue and that’s a victory. Bioware could learn a lesson from Todd Howard.