BioWare: Feedback Had ‘Impact’ on New Mass Effect; But What?

Fan feedback about the ending of Mass Effect 3 “has had an impact” on BioWare and the development of the new Mass Effect title, Producer Mike Gamble said at San Diego Comic-Con 2014.

Speaking during the panel “Charting a Course: Developing the Next Mass Effect,” Gamble addressed a fan question about what BioWare took away from the feedback related to Mass Effect 3′s ending, and how that experience might affect the development of the new Mass Effect title the company is developing at its Montreal studio. (The Mass Effect trilogy was developed by BioWare Edmonton, but ME3′s “Omega” DLC and the new entry into the franchise are being made by BioWare Montreal.)

“Fans were pretty vocal about the ending of Mass Effect 3,” one fan asked during the panel’s question-and-answer portion. “I was curious whether you agreed or disagreed with fan perception. What things are you going to take from that to bring into the new title in terms of branching storylines and those storylines kind of ending in a way that makes gamers feel like they had made those decisions and had all those different endings and different experiences?”

Gamble’s response to the question was, like much of the panel, guarded. He said BioWare took the feedback into account and responded to it — specifically in the form of Mass Effect 3′s “Extended Cut” DLC — and also has internalized what it learned for future development. But his close-to-the-vest response also suggests that BioWare’s interpretation of the fan response might be different from what many fans were trying to convey.

“Well, we did take fan feedback. Like, we really did — that’s why we made the Extended Cut,” Gamble said. “But it’s all relative to the story that you’re telling. Is that to say that the response to the ending is going to make it so that you don’t have choice in your game or that your choices aren’t showing throughout? No, we can’t go down that path. It’s all about being smart in your development. It did have an impact on us at the studio and we did look at the way that we developed it and we did make some changes and we are making some changes for in the future.

“That said, the point of it is always to go back to things that matter, choices that matter,” he continued. “That’s a key focus to keep in our game, and regardless of how many endings or how many things we have to build in the end, we still want our players to have those emotional experiences within the game, and have those choices and have those reflected.

“So in effect, yeah, we saw what you guys said, we saw what the fans said, and we made adjustments. But it’s not like we’re going to turn everything on its head.”

Fans looking to BioWare’s future and wondering whether they’ll be satisfied with the next entry in the Mass Effect franchise will be glad to hear that BioWare has made some adjustments to the way it develops things like endings and choices because of the experience.

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22 Comments on BioWare: Feedback Had ‘Impact’ on New Mass Effect; But What?

Dave

On July 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm

It was pretty clear from their PR response in the first place that Bioware seemed to ignore all the actual content of the very very valid criticisms. Mass Effect is mainly being done by Bioware Montreal who did the excellent multiplayer, but Casey Hudson/Mike Gamble still head the project…I’m skeptical

fethski

On July 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Considering that the way the Mako handled was the big complaint in ME1 BW decided to fix it by completely removing it from ME2.

Aedelric

On July 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Good article Phil.

Grizzly

On July 30, 2014 at 4:16 am

So, what we’ve gathered from Gamble’s self-fellating PR hogwash is that Bioware might start doing what they were supposed to be doing in the first place, aka allowing us to make meaningful choices. It’s amazing how one of the biggest middle fingers to loyal trusting customers in videogame history is being warped into how great Bioware’s connection with the fans is. Still, the Stockholm Syndrome-afflicted wide-eyed fantards who obediently swallow all the crap this company offers will surely be happy with this.

T. Jetfuel

On July 30, 2014 at 5:43 am

Always a thrill to see “Honest” Mike Gamble, legend of the prairies, defend the Arts against Entitled expectations of coherence and respect for the audience.

In the end, however, the notion of “choice” is a bit of a red herring when it comes to that ending. The single biggest issue of course is that the ending was tailored to kill the Mass Effect setting, along with the player character, and they seemingly gave not a damn about whether the debris piled on us kindling for the pyre made any kind of sense whatsoever. The “big choice”, balanced to make all options distasteful (“LOL, U kilt nice robots!”), is there to divide the players further against any ideas of continuing the story. And in that sense, it is very much “too dark”, along with “too derp”.

Interesting to hear that they now pay lip service to the importance of “intelligence”. I wonder what that means for the job description of SuperMac Walters. Ideally, there would be a social safety net to support people suffering from Zero Talent Syndrome.

T. Jetfuel

On July 30, 2014 at 5:53 am

Damn, how could I click “Leave Comment” without specifically acknowledging the sublime spin of framing the “Extended Cut” as any benevolent form of response to audience feedback? Classic Gamble.

They actually paid sweet dollars to both Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer to deliver a defiant speech about standing up to the Reaper Program and its “choice” of surrenders, only to turn around and slap the rising sense of last-ditch optimism out of us with a giant “Game Over, everyone died!” troll. Truly, a middle finger for the ages. I’m still a little dazed by the extravagance of their peevishness.

Concernedgamer82

On July 30, 2014 at 10:10 am

Still not calling off my boycott of anything having to do with EAware. They’re not only going to have to make good games with meaningful choices for the next 3-5 years, they’re going to have to give ME3 an ACTUAL ending, rather than the defiant “We wrote a poor ending because art” crap that Hudson and Gamble wrote.

It’s true: Bioware is no longer depending on building loyalty with fans. Instead, they use hype to lure gamers in, and then wait on the Stockholm Syndrome to kick in.

DHDGeek82

On July 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

Uwe Boll would have given ME3 a better ending, and I effing hate Uwe Boll’s work.

DarthEpitaph

On July 30, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I can’t help but read this as PR speak for, “We will make noises about taking your feedback into account but we aren’t going to change anything substantive”.

And like you said, in a way, that’s good – most of the people I’ve talked to still think that the majority of the Mass Effect games were great.

But I agree there is this persistent straw-man regarding the backlash as “players just wanting a happy ending”. It is implied in Gambles comments regarding providing “emotional experiences”. Of course, that wasn’t the true issue with the game – nobody complained about the “emotional experiences” of Mordin, or Thane, because those were awesome. ME3 was full of great emotional experiences.

The problem with the ending wasn’t about emotional content. It was that the ending was insulting.

It was insulting when they had you push a button to select your ending. It was insulting when each of the endings was basically the same. It was insulting when they took out the entire game universe by blowing up the mass relays. It was insulting when they tried to make the Reapers the “good guys”. It was insulting when they had to poison the obvious good choice with the destruction of the Geth. It was -super- insulting when they added a last-minute “middle ground” option that not only violated the spirit of the entire story before, but also violated the previously established physics of the game world. It was insulting when they dismissed our complaints as “not understanding their artistic vision”.

I could probably go on, but I think you see my point.

Mr. Gamble: I think we will all be happy if the next Mass Effect game does not insult us. I for one am still a huge fan of the games and the setting. But I have taken -your- feedback into account, and I have made an “adjustment” – I won’t be buying this game until I see some positive reviews.

Drizzt

On July 30, 2014 at 2:40 pm

No hard commitments. No hard cash.

Lets see how ME4 turns out. If it’s good, I might buy it. If not, then I won’t. The same goes for Dragon Age: Inquisition.

@Concernedgamer82: I can understand your EA boycott, though Ubisoft ranks way higher for me. Every frigging (major) title they release, means I can’t play my (by now) old Anno 2070. Because – who would have thought that – their frigging login servers “have issues”, they “hope to resolve soon”. Which basically means: “let’s wait until the rush has died down, we can’t be bothered to spin up a few more instances in our network, since that would cost us money and we like our spreadsheets static from the start of the fiscal year to the end (positive additions excepted)”. To that end I won’t buy any Ubisoft game until uPlay is gone. EA’s Origin is at least half-way there and the most annoying issues are gone. Still, could be a lot less obnoxious and their titles could be actual art again…

Concernedgamer82

On July 30, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Yeah, I’m getting there with Ubisoft, too. I haven’t bought a game from them in nearly a year.

Capios

On July 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

@ T. Jetfuel

I’m glad at least someone remembers the contempt with which Gamble and Hudson regarded disgruntled fans during Ending-Gate.

Phil Hornshaw

On July 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

@Capios @T Jetfuel

Oh, we remember. We definitely remember.

Chris

On July 31, 2014 at 7:07 am

One thing is for sure, BW will have wanted to of developed a very thick skin to weather the (very likely) storm that is fan-rage. However ‘valid’ the concerns were the fury that got aimed in their direction after the game was released (and in some areas of the internet, ‘still’ are getting flak for) was incredible. I myself had not seen anything like it (that said, the BW forum was the only game forum I frequented thanks to Mass Effect).

The fact BW is still giving fans avenues to express their wants and desires says a lot, imho anyway.

Aedelric

On July 31, 2014 at 10:27 am

Do not get me started on Ubisoft Concernedgamer82! They have had me stuck in their support system since 6/20/2014 5:17:46 AM (After a month they have now owned up to the fact that a game I bought does not have all advertised features). They are probably the worst customer service I have ever experienced, I have essentially got to a point where I am now asking for my money back. I am not giving them a chance to close the support ticket on me, I will have my pound of flesh!

I really am at my wits end with Ubisoft and EA, I have better things to spend my future money on.

C166

On July 31, 2014 at 5:22 pm

When talking about the themes of the game and all, what happens when you’ve got different groups who see the themes differently? Especially in a game that sold millions. I’m sure not everyone who bought the game has the same views on what the game means to them.

In regards to choices, isn’t comparing the final minutes of ME3 to ME2, where the only difference was the number of caskets? Or the different blue or red explosion of the Collector Base? People bring up that certain squad members can die or live along the way (in the suicide mission), so that their choices were more meaningful. Even though, it essentially the same scene, with a different person running the vents, or biotic barrier when you look at it.

I personally consider the start of Priority Earth (just as the start of the suicide mission) was the actual end of the game, and not the last 5 minutes where you made your choice to destroy the base or preserve it. Or in the case of ME3, how to deal with the Reapers.

Priority Earth, like the suicide mission was the final mission so to speak. There was plenty of plot variables triggered if you look at it like that.

DcDan

On August 1, 2014 at 12:24 am

Correction:

BioWare has repeatedly focused on the idea that ME3′s ending was too dark, and that the majority of fan criticism was that they wanted Shepard and HIS team to come through with a happy ending.

DarthEpitaph

On August 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm

@C166: Sure, there can be some different interpretations of the themes of the game. And I can see where it would be impossible to include everyone’s interpretation of the game in any amount of variant endings.

Whether or not you think the ending violated the game’s themes, though, it’s hard to ignore all of the statements in the pre-release publicity that turned out to be false.

As far as the ending of ME2 – no, there wasn’t a ton of difference in the possible outcomes. But that wasn’t the end of the story. It didn’t need to close everything up, in fact it couldn’t, and shouldn’t have. At least had the consideration to close out the Collector storyline with an actual conclusion, then left us ready for the next part of the overall story. ME2, even at the end, was still about making choices, instead of seeing the results of those choices, which is what the end of ME3 should have been.

C166

On August 1, 2014 at 8:05 pm

If you combine the original ending with the Extended Cut, and my Priority Earth example, there is more than enough choice variation and consequences to go around. I honestly didn’t expect the game to account for every single decision I ever made. The final minutes was to bring about the end of Shepard’s story and the Reapers, and the overall state of the galaxy, squadmates, etc (EC).

DarthEpitaph

On August 2, 2014 at 2:16 am

I’m not saying the game should have (or could have!) accounted for each decision But it should have accounted for the major ones. The story makes a big deal about certain decisions, like whether to let the Rachni queen live, destroy the Geth or reprogram them, keep or destroy the collector base. And that was awesome! I felt like I was making big, universe changing decisions, and that I would eventually have to deal with the repercussions, for better or worse. But then none of those choices mattered, not just at the very end, but throughout the entire third game.

GazH

On August 2, 2014 at 6:32 am

RE: C166

ME2′s ending closed off that storyline, it gave a definite ending and allowed you to progress through the game to that ending, seeing the results of all the actions and decisions you had made in that story. ME3, on the other hand, kept a lot of threads open, as stated by DarthEpitaph. The story basically hit a wall, it didn’t explain all the things that had happened, the repercussions, it didn’t tie up loose ends, didn’t involve previous decisions you had made, it basically stopped dead and had you press 1, 2, or 3.

ME2 was the Empire Strikes Back of the Mass Effect series. ME3 should have been the Return of the Jedi, seeing the Emperor killed, Darth Vader atone for his actions, and the Empire crumble, followed by a party down on Furryville. Imagine the same story if you had been watching all those movies and Luke Skywalker had got to the Death Star and found a series of self destruct options. He presses one and the movie ends. Wouldn’t you have felt short changed?

R-man

On August 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

Honestly, if they had just used the original ending I probably would’ve never joined the uproar as hardcore as I did. To me, the ending they made wasn’t just bad because of all the lack of choice or closure or all that, its also because it just didn’t make sense with the rest of the game(s). It was going along one story path for 2.5 games (a path that most people loved enough to commit a crap ton of time and money (and even emotion) towards) and then at the last second swerved into a completely different lane which threw people off course.